This first-person narrative, a coming-of-age story, is written entirely from Olivia Ann’s perspective. She serves as an honest narrator, wide-eyed and playful as an adolescent, a bit wiser but still whimsical as an adult. As the oldest child in her family, she is spunky and aggressive toward her brothers, and their image of her is often of a loud and angry person. She is vigilant and nurturing toward them even as their mother seems preoccupied. Though matter-of-fact in her description of their adventures, her curiosity and love for her brothers shine through. She is an agreeable narrator; she can laugh at herself, and she presents her world clearly, without unnecessary elaboration.
The character of Obasan dominates the early part of the book. Obasan inhibits Olivia Ann’s spontaneity, but she also fiercely protects her granddaughter from threatening outsiders. Olivia Ann calls Obasan her “tormentor” in the first sentence of the book, but it is to pages of Obasan’s diary that Olivia Ann goes for advice about sex, and it is to a shrine to Obasan that she respectfully yet fearfully serves rice cakes soaked in tea. Obasan is a powerful woman who smokes cigars, outlives three husbands, and engineers the marriage of Charlie-O to her daughter when her daughter is eight months pregnant. In spite of the fact that she is dead by page twenty-nine, she is the most vivid and energetic character in the novel, and her presence endures even after she is buried....
(The entire section is 484 words.)