Was Lily, the main character in Toronto author Leslie Shimotakahara‘s After the Bloom ($21.99, Dundurn), the way she was simply because that is who she was or because she had such horrible things happen to her from the time she was a little girl?

Because Lily Takemitsu has seen true horrors in her life including her forced – but never mentioned –  internment at a Japanese camp in California during the Second World War.

You get to see glimpses of Lily’s life every other chapter once she disappears from her Toronto home on summer morning in the mid-1980s. Her daughter, Rita, who grew up with secrecy, lies and denial, knows her mother has a history of dissociation and memory problems, which have led her to wander off before, but never for as long as she has this time.

Rita, like many people with missing adult family members, has to do her own investigation, which forces her to confront her family’s secrets about that internment camp, their post-war immigration to Toronto, and the father she has never known.

I found After the Bloom a hard read mainly because of Lily and the choices she made. I found them frustrating, although I tried to remember how young Lily was – both in years and likely maturity. Lily was vulnerable, and people took advantage.

A copy of this book was provided by Dundurn for honest review. The opinions are my own.