Stephen, an 18 year old Chinese art student, suffering from tuberculosis is sent to his family's Japanese summer home to rest and recuperate. He is under the watchful care of the family's master gardener, Matsu, a man who embodies the chivalrous soul of the samurai tradition, finding beauty and kindness in a cruel world under threat by political unrest. Stephen not only regains his physical strength, but becomes all the more self-assured under the gentle care of Matsu's profoundly wise and spiritual insights. Gracefully poetic writing and beautifully evocative storytelling, this is one of my all-time favorite books that becomes all the more meaningful with every re-reading. To be cherished!— Jane Glaser
The daughter of a Chinese mother and a Japanese father, Gail Tsukiyama uses the Japanese invasion of China during the late 1930s as a somber backdrop for her unusual story about a twenty-year-old Chinese painter named Stephen who is sent to his family's summer home in a Japanese coastal village to recover from a bout with tuberculosis. Here he is cared for by Matsu, a reticent housekeeper and a master gardener. Over the course of a remarkable year, Stephen learns Matsu's secret and gains not only physical strength but also profound spiritual insight. Matsu is a samurai of the soul, a man devoted to doing good and finding beauty in a cruel and arbitrary world, and Stephen is a noble student, learning to appreciate Matsu's generous and nurturing way of life and to love Matsu's soulmate, gentle Sachi, a woman afflicted with leprosy.