As steadily and quietly as her marriage falls apart, so Kyoko Mori’s understanding of knitting deepens. From the flawed school mittens made in her native Japan, where needlework is used as a way to prepare women for marriage and silence, to the beautiful unmatched patterns of cardigans, hats, and shawls made in the American Midwest, Mori draws the connection between knitting and the new life she tried to establish in the United States.
Kyoko Mori’s life falls into two halves: childhood in Japan, adulthood in the Midwest. In both places she has been an outsider, unable to quite mimic everyone’s polite lies. In twelve penetrating, painful, and at times hilarious essays, she explores the codes of silence, deference, and expression that govern Japanese and American women’s lives.
In 1990 Kyoko Mori returned to her native Japan to visit the landscape of her childhood. There—looking for the house in which her mother killed herself, running on land that was once water, and retracing childhood train trips to her grandparents’ farm—she relived the memories and uncovered the secrets that unlocked her past. In The Dream of Water, a series of chapters that are themselves” small perfections,” she leads us to the “larger happiness” of an autobiography that is also a work of art.