From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.
As intricately designed as a Japanese garden, this deceptively quiet novel resonates with the power to inspire a variety of passionate emotions. Reflecting back on her life as a neurological disease threatens to erase her memories, retired Chinese-Malaysian judge Teoh Yun Ling reveals, layer by layer, the horrors she and her sister experienced during the war when they were interred in a Japanese slave-labor camp. As the sisters attempt to mentally escape by immersing themselves in intricate recollections of the Japanese gardens they once visited, the brutality of their reality increases daily. After the war, Yun Ling appeals to Nakamura Aritomo, the exiled former gardener to the emperor of Japan to design a garden in her sister's memory. Instead, she becomes Aritomo's apprentice and eventually his lover. It is many years before all of her own secrets and those of Aritomo are revealed, for nothing is as simple as it initially appears in the Garden of Evening Mists. A haunting novel certain to stay with the reader long after the book is closed.--Flanagan, Margaret Copyright 2010 Booklist
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Like his debut, The Gift of Rain (2007), Malaysian author Tan's second novel is exquisite and, like Gift, arrives stateside with Booker Prize long-list approval. Recently retired judge Teoh Yun Ling has at most a year before she will lose all language and memory to aphasia. She leaves Kuala Lumpur for the highlands of central Malaysia and finds Yugiri-the book's eponymous Garden of Evening Mists-where she's agreed to meet a Japanese scholar writing a book about Yugiri's creator, Aritomo, the self-exiled former gardener to the emperor of Japan. Four decades earlier, in spite of being the single survivor of a horrific World War II Japanese prison, Yun Ling apprenticed herself to Aritomo, hoping to someday create the perfect garden to honor her murdered sister. Almost 38 years have passed since Aritomo disappeared, and now, threatened with erasure, Yun Ling begins to record his story as well as her own. VERDICT Tan triumphs again, entwining the redemptive power of storytelling with the search for elusive truth, all the while juxtaposing Japan's ignominious war history with glorious moments of Japanese art and philosophy. Readers in search of spectacular writing will not be disappointed.-Terry Hong, Smithsonian BookDragon, Washington, DC (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.