The Fourth Treasure by Todd Shimoda

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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.

From the Hardcover edition.

About Todd Shimoda

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Todd Shimoda won the 2010 Elliot Cades Award for Literature, presented by the Hawai’i Literary Arts Council. It is the highest literary honor in the state. Of his previous novels,Oh!was named an NPR summer best read and a notable book by the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco.The Fourth Treasurewas translated into six languages and was named a notable book by the Kiriyama Prize. His novels have been reviewed and he has been interviewed in many US and international publications such theSan Francisco Chronicle,The Los Angeles Times,The Japan Times, andThe Village Voice. He was born and raised in Colorado, and lives in Hawaii and California. His PhD in science and mathematics education is from the University of California, Berkeley. L.J.C. (Linda) Shimoda is an accomplished artist, illustrator, and book designer. Her artwork and illustrations have appeared in her husband Todd Shimoda's novels,365 Views of Mt. Fuji,The Fourth Treasure, andOh!. Linda's artwork adds a dynamic visual layer to Todd's stories, creating an experience beyond reading. Her art has appeared in many venues and publications, and she received a degree in design from the University of Texas at Austin.
Published May 14, 2002 by Nan A. Talese. 376 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction. Fiction

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Kirkus Reviews

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Other parallels tell of Shimano’s early years as a teacher in Kyoto while we follow the trials of Berkeley student and neuroscientist Tina Suzuki, who finds the gifted but stricken Shimano a golden subject for neuronal research in her Brain and Behavior Studies.

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Publishers Weekly

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A teacher of Japanese shodô (calligraphy) emerges from a stroke with both agraphia and aphasia, severely limiting his ability to communicate and rendering his kanji characters indecipherable.

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