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Fifty Words for Rain by Asha Lemmie | Book Review + Questions

Updated: Sep 12, 2023

Hello! Another month, another book! 😀📘

For this month's book club, we read Fifty Words for Rain by Asha Lemmie. This is the story of Nori, the child of a married Japanese aristocrat and her African American GI lover. We are taken on an emotional journey reading Nori's life post WWII. I won't go into too many details here (no spoilers!), just this one though - after all she went through I wished there could have been a better ending to her journey. I wanted to love this book. I really did. Unfortunately, when I was done I was left with a feeling of frustration and disappointed. It felt like watching a friend heading straight for disaster, which was quite hard to read truthfully.

"Kyoto, Japan, 1948. "If a woman knows nothing else, she should know how to be silent. . . . Do not question. Do not fight. Do not resist." Such is eight-year-old Noriko "Nori" Kamiza's first lesson. She will not question why her mother abandoned her with only these final words. She will not fight her confinement to the attic of her grandparents' imperial estate. And she will not resist the scalding chemical baths she receives daily to lighten her shameful skin. The illegitimate child of a Japanese aristocrat and her African American GI lover, Nori is an outsider from birth. Though her grandparents take her in, they do so only to conceal her, fearful of a stain on the royal pedigree that they are desperate to uphold in a changing Japan. Obedient to a fault, Nori accepts her solitary life for what it is, despite her natural intellect and nagging curiosity about what lies outside the attic's walls. But when chance brings her legitimate older half-brother, Akira, to the estate that is his inheritance and destiny, Nori finds in him the first person who will allow her to question, and the siblings form an unlikely but powerful bond—a bond their formidable grandparents cannot allow and that will irrevocably change the lives they were always meant to lead. Because now that Nori has glimpsed a world in which perhaps there is a place for her after all, she is ready to fight to be a part of it—a battle that just might cost her everything." - Goodreads

Book Club Questions

  1. What is the significance of the title "Fifty Words for Rain"?

  2. Would you have given a different title?

  3. What does nature represent in Nori's life?

  4. How did the book make you feel?

  5. Which character did you most relate to and why?

  6. Did any part of the book shock you?

  7. Have you previously read a similar book or set in Japan?

  8. Nori faced abuse for many years. Where do you think she got her strength to keep her going?

  9. Why do you think Akira and Nori formed a very powerful bond?

  10. Did you lose interest reading the rest of the story after "the accident"?

  11. What does Nori learn from reading her mother's diaries?

  12. Were there times you disagreed with a character's actions? What would you have done differently?

  13. How does Nori transform throughout the book?

  14. What do you think Nori's grandma means when she says "many, and none" in answer to Nori's question about having regrets?

  15. What do you think of the ending? How might you have changed it?

By the way ... the author, Asha Lemmie, and I exchanged messages online which I did not expect at all. She was very nice about me asking her some questions.

What was your writing inspiration for this book?

Can you explain the ending?

Why didn't Nori look for her American family?

What happened to her mom?

How do you see Nori's future?

She answered to one, about the ending, and politely avoided the others. I have a little feeling that perhaps a Book 2 might be a possibility. 😊

xoxo Elodie

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