Author: Wally Wood
Wally Wood's recent novel, The Girl in the Photo explores the consequences when a son and a daughter discover, after their father's death, that prior to his marriage to their mother, he had been in love with a Japanese woman while being stationed in Japan during the Korean war as an Army surgeon between 1952 and 1954.
With his masterful ability to weave a carefully structured and engaging plot, Wood narrates the story of a young American surgeon, Dr. Robert David Emmerling who was deeply in love with Masami Takeda and lived with her in a house in Sagami-shi. This comes as quite a shock to his two children, Abbie and David who accidentally get wind of their father's memoir which had been saved on his computer concerning his love relationship with Masami. Upon further going through their father's belongings, they also find a letter and a picture pertaining to this relationship. Their mother, Carolyn, had predeceased their father by several years and at no time did their father ever reveal to them his intimate connection with this Japanese woman.
And that is just the beginning, as Abbie and David further probe into their father's secret life, they learn that he had impregnated Masami prior to his return to the USA. To their astonishment they now discover they have a either a half brother or sister. This was a whole different father then the one they knew while growing up-one that was once passionate and caught up in a different world. The question foremost on their minds was if the memoir was in fact true or was it just a work of fiction- a figment of their father's imagination? If it were true, why didn't their father marry Masami and why did he abandoned her? Did their father really want them to know after his death about this secret life? Furthermore, if they did have a half brother or sister, would they want to meet with him or her? It was like a huge jigsaw puzzle. It was as if they really didn't know their father as they attempt to fit all of the pieces together.
The beauty of this novel is that readers will compulsively turn pages as each chapter is brimming with small details that resonate with meaning making it quite easy to visualize. Furthermore, with its convincing and down-to-earth dialogue, I can say without reserve that it resembles watching a movie. The characters of Abbie and David are very carefully drawn, and as it turns out, they not only unearth something mind-blowing concerning their father, but they also learn the best and worst in themselves, while at the same time gaining an insight into their complex relationship to each other and their father. Although The Girl in the Photo may be a work of fiction, it does raise an interesting question, do we really know our parents before they became our parents? Have we ever really dug into their past to find out who else they are or have been? Could it be that we are afraid to find out and that we really prefer to know them as boring and straightforward parents rather than being multifaceted?