My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I made a decision earlier this year to read more books by or about people of color, which was why I picked up Phantoms. It is the story of two Placer County famiies, one white and one Japanese, in the days of World War II. Both families are affected by internments, prejudice, and more.
The Takahashis are tenants on the Wilson farm, helping Mr. Wilson with his orchards. Their elder son Raymond, is great friends with the Wilson kids, Jimmy and Helen. When Japanese families are rounded up and taken to internment camps, the Wilsons vow to look after the Takahashis’ property.
Ray becomes one of the Nisei veterans, second generation Japanese-Americans who joined the military and fought on the side of the US. When he returns to his home town, he finds the Wilsons arrayed against him for reasons he doesn’t understand.
Cut forward to the late 1960s, when Mrs. Wilson’s nephew, John, is staying with his grandmother in that same town … and a variety of circumstances set him on the trail of what happened to Raymond Takahashi.
Christian Kiefer’s novel is a heartbreaking, realistic story filled with people who feel real to the reader. They all have their foibles; none of them are perfect. Yet, they are relatable and I found myself commiserating with many of them as I read. Toward the end of the book, tears threatened to spill; in many ways, this is not a tale for the faint of heart.
Highly recommended for those who enjoy literary fiction, with a smattering of the sociology of prejudice woven throughout.