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A lovely review for The Escape to Candyland.

5.0 out of 5 stars Unforgettable Stories

Reviewed in the United States on August 9, 2020

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Takahashi has written an impressive collection of essays about the secret stories people who pass each other on the street carry within themselves. People with seemingly normal lives keep secrets tamped down within themselves. Told with compassion, each vignette caused me to pause and think about the people I pass on a day-to-day basis. Are these stories their stories? How much heartbreak are they secretly carrying? While the focus is on immigrant families, the stories here could be anyone’s life. “Impressions” was my favorite. How many times have we formed the first impression of someone and found later how wrong we were? What first impression do we give others about ourselves? I suspect we may all see ourselves in this story. “Candyland” was heartbreaking. The struggle of a mother trying to make her money stretch. The embarrassment when she must return items in a grocery store because she doesn’t have enough money. A little girl who doesn’t understand why she can’t have the delightful items on the shelves. How many times have we seen this ourselves? The seriousness of gambling addiction is revealed in “The Winner”. My heart ached for the life of the baby whose mother dragged it each day into a dirty rundown casino and would leave it in the care of anyone she could. As I read, I began to find loose connections between some of the characters, and a web began to form linking the stories. I found myself wondering what happened to these characters beyond the story. Whose lives did Takahashi draw from as the basis for her stories? Did life get better for them? Within these snapshots of ordinary lives runs an underlying theme of hopefulness, no matter how grim and hurtful the characters’ current lives are. I found myself wondering how bad their lives must have been to bring them here where they faced new problems. I found the stories illuminating, disturbing, and unforgettable.