Illustrated throughout with beautiful calligraphy, The Fourth Treasure is an original, surprising novel that weaves a suspenseful love story across and through two very different countries, cultures, and generations.
Tina Suzuki has just begun her first year of graduate study at the UC Berkeley Institute for Brain and Behavior Studies. Born and raised in San Francisco by her Japanese immigrant mother, Tina knows nothing about the rest of her family, and very little about her cultural heritage. But when her boyfriend’s Japanese calligraphy teacher suffers a stroke and loses his ability to communicate but continues to create magnificent calligraphic art, Tina knows she has stumbled across an ideal research subject.
However, getting the sensei to participate in her study poses a series of uncomfortable obstacles for Tina: the jealous opposition of her boyfriend, the political and (romantic) minefield of dealing with her professors and fellow students, and the willful reticence of her ailing mother. It seems that the blank personal history her mother had always presented is in fact a tightly wound scroll full of scandalous secrets. In ways she could have never expected, Tina’s studies will inevitably lead to revelations about her own family.
Juxtaposed with Tina’s story is that of the stricken sensei as a younger man, in Kyoto, and the history of the ancient inkstone he carries with him. The inkstone’s history, and the sensei’s art, reach back hundreds of years into a Japanese culture that no longer exists but that continues to reverberate on both sides of the Pacific.
As the dual narratives unfold, they are enhanced by intriguing marginalia that illuminate both the sensei’s Japanese calligraphy and Tina’s studies of the brain.
The result is a unique, unusually satisfying literary experience.
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