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Bestselling author Gail Tsukiyama is known for her poignant, subtle insights into the most complicated of relationships. Dreaming Water is an exploration of two of the richest and most layered human connections that exist: mother and daughter and lifelong friends. Hana is suffering from Werner's syndrome, a disease that makes a person age at twice the rate of a healthy indi Bestselling author Gail Tsukiyama is known for her poignant, subtle insights into the most complicated of relationships. Dreaming Water is an exploration of two of the richest and most layered human connections that exist: mother and daughter and lifelong friends. Hana is suffering from Werner's syndrome, a disease that makes a person age at twice the rate of a healthy individual: at thirty-eight Hana has the appearance of an eighty-year-old. Cate, her mother, is caring for her while struggling with her grief at losing her husband, Max, and with the knowledge that Hana's disease is getting worse by the day. Hana and Cate's days are quiet and ordered. Cate escapes to her beloved garden and Hana reads and writes letters. Each find themselves drawn into their pasts, remembering the joyous and challenging events that have shaped them: spending the day at Max's favorite beach, overcoming their neighbors' prejudices that Max is Japanese-American and Cate is Italian-American, and coping with the heartbreak of discovering Hana's disease. One of the great joys of Hana's life has been her relationship with her beautiful, successful best friend Laura. Laura has moved to New York from their hometown in California and has two daughters, Josephine and Camille. She has not been home in years and begs Hana to let her bring her daughters to meet her, feeling that Josephine, in particular, needs to have Hana in her life. Despite Hana's latest refusal, Laura decides to come anyway. When Laura's loud, energetic, and troubled world collides with Hana and Cate's daily routine, the story really begins. Dreaming Water is about a mother's courage, a daughter's strength, and a friend's love. It is about the importance of human dignity and the importance of all the small moments that create a life worth living.


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Bestselling author Gail Tsukiyama is known for her poignant, subtle insights into the most complicated of relationships. Dreaming Water is an exploration of two of the richest and most layered human connections that exist: mother and daughter and lifelong friends. Hana is suffering from Werner's syndrome, a disease that makes a person age at twice the rate of a healthy indi Bestselling author Gail Tsukiyama is known for her poignant, subtle insights into the most complicated of relationships. Dreaming Water is an exploration of two of the richest and most layered human connections that exist: mother and daughter and lifelong friends. Hana is suffering from Werner's syndrome, a disease that makes a person age at twice the rate of a healthy individual: at thirty-eight Hana has the appearance of an eighty-year-old. Cate, her mother, is caring for her while struggling with her grief at losing her husband, Max, and with the knowledge that Hana's disease is getting worse by the day. Hana and Cate's days are quiet and ordered. Cate escapes to her beloved garden and Hana reads and writes letters. Each find themselves drawn into their pasts, remembering the joyous and challenging events that have shaped them: spending the day at Max's favorite beach, overcoming their neighbors' prejudices that Max is Japanese-American and Cate is Italian-American, and coping with the heartbreak of discovering Hana's disease. One of the great joys of Hana's life has been her relationship with her beautiful, successful best friend Laura. Laura has moved to New York from their hometown in California and has two daughters, Josephine and Camille. She has not been home in years and begs Hana to let her bring her daughters to meet her, feeling that Josephine, in particular, needs to have Hana in her life. Despite Hana's latest refusal, Laura decides to come anyway. When Laura's loud, energetic, and troubled world collides with Hana and Cate's daily routine, the story really begins. Dreaming Water is about a mother's courage, a daughter's strength, and a friend's love. It is about the importance of human dignity and the importance of all the small moments that create a life worth living.

30 review for Dreaming Water

  1. 4 out of 5

    Sharon Huether

    A very poignant story of courage and strength. When Hana an only child of Max and Cate comes down with Werner’s syndrome, making her body grow old, when she actually is younger. Hana is a gift for each day she is with her mother, her friend Laura and her god-children.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Irene

    This book is told in alternating voices: Hana, a 38 year old woman in the advanced stages of Werner’s Disease (premature aging), Hana’s widowed mother who is Hana’s only care-giver and Josie, the 13 year old daughter of Hana’s childhood friend. The book spans 36 hours in the life of these individuals. The premise intrigued me with the potential to explore issues of facing death at the prime of life, the tension between our desire for independence from our parents and the need to accept the care This book is told in alternating voices: Hana, a 38 year old woman in the advanced stages of Werner’s Disease (premature aging), Hana’s widowed mother who is Hana’s only care-giver and Josie, the 13 year old daughter of Hana’s childhood friend. The book spans 36 hours in the life of these individuals. The premise intrigued me with the potential to explore issues of facing death at the prime of life, the tension between our desire for independence from our parents and the need to accept the care of a child, embarrassment, humiliation, fear, surrender, and the way all of these effects our relationships with those we love most, and much more. Unfortunately, the book never exploited the potential in the subject. All three alternating voices sounded identical, like that of an author of literary fiction. The bulk of the text is dedicated to recounting past events. I learned more about the interment of Japanese Americans during WWII (Hana’s father is Japanese American), the discrimination Hana’s parents experienced as a young inter-racial couple, and childhood visits to the doctor than about the emotional life of any character in the present.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Pmalcpoet Pat Malcolm

    A stunning book. A little gem. Gail Tsukiyama presents the characters in simple, straight-forward fashion, bringing out their personalities in a very natural way that emphasizes their humanity above all else. While the book initially seems to be about the rare genetic disorder Werner's syndrome, that proves merely to be the catalyst for the real plot. What risked being maudlin and formulaic emerges as enlightening and transformative, even comforting as we face our own humanity and its inevitable A stunning book. A little gem. Gail Tsukiyama presents the characters in simple, straight-forward fashion, bringing out their personalities in a very natural way that emphasizes their humanity above all else. While the book initially seems to be about the rare genetic disorder Werner's syndrome, that proves merely to be the catalyst for the real plot. What risked being maudlin and formulaic emerges as enlightening and transformative, even comforting as we face our own humanity and its inevitable suffering.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Annie

    This is a well written story of a mother caring for her daughter with Werner’s Syndrome. It is very slow paced, so you have to be in the mood for it.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Sheila Raghavendran

    I kept worrying that this book would break my heart. Though it tugged at it, it left me feeling hopeful and reflective. :)

  6. 5 out of 5

    Caroline Abbott

    Interesting. This woman has Werner's disease - she grows old twice as fast as normal. The first half of the book was slow. I enjoyed the second half.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Priya

    Very emotionally difficult to read, yet very beautiful at the same time. I love how the book ends.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Dioni (Bookie Mee)

    The first thing popped up in my mind when I got to the last page: “Gosh, what a boring book.” I mean I really want to like this book, because it deals with difficult issue, and you thought it would be interesting, but it just… didn’t. It’s boring. The characters are all one-dimensional and full of cliches. And they say cliche things to each other. So the story goes around Hana, a Japanese American, who is suffering from Werner’s syndrome, a disease that makes a person age at twice the rate of a hea The first thing popped up in my mind when I got to the last page: “Gosh, what a boring book.” I mean I really want to like this book, because it deals with difficult issue, and you thought it would be interesting, but it just… didn’t. It’s boring. The characters are all one-dimensional and full of cliches. And they say cliche things to each other. So the story goes around Hana, a Japanese American, who is suffering from Werner’s syndrome, a disease that makes a person age at twice the rate of a healthy person. At 38, she has the appearance of an 80 years old. Cate, her mother, is caring for her while struggling with the loss of her husband, Max. Then there are Laura, Hana’s childhood friend, and her 2 daughters, who Hana have not met for 10 years, who give her a surprise visit. The story only gets a tiny bit more interesting after they all meet, which is only at the last third of the book. The first two third is full of Hana and Cate’s flashbacks (which, again, I found boring). The only elements that I found interesting are the Japanese American internment camp during WWII (something I never heard before) and the downs of looking Asian in 70s US. Oh and of course, some facts about Werner’s syndrome. The funny thing is, I have another book about a little girl who suffers from Progeria. The affected people age a lot faster than Werner’s syndrome, which makes them rarely pass their teens, while people with Werner usually do not live pass late 40s or early 50s. Also, Werner’s syndrome only shows up when the person reaches puberty, then they start to age rapidly in their twenties. Child with Progeria shows symptoms since they’re babies. So in this other book, I just saw a 14 year-old child that looks very old, who may not live very long, and she’s real. I see pictures of her. In Dreaming Water, Hana gets to live up to 38 years-old and her mother keeps complaining about how young she is. And they’re fictional. So, you see where I’m getting at. The impact was just not there. I know they’re all horrible diseases, but relatively, I feel a lot more for Ashley than Hana.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Heather Wilson

    I have rarely finished a book and felt as irritated as I did when I finished this one. With such an intriguing premise (a 38-year-old daughter, Hana, who suffers from a disese that makes her age prematurely, lives with her 62-year-old widowed mother, Cate), I expected a beautiful, gripping story. This one was neither. I have no problem with books light on plot - I love them. However, if there's not much plot, the characters better be interesting. The characters in Dreaming Water are not. They we I have rarely finished a book and felt as irritated as I did when I finished this one. With such an intriguing premise (a 38-year-old daughter, Hana, who suffers from a disese that makes her age prematurely, lives with her 62-year-old widowed mother, Cate), I expected a beautiful, gripping story. This one was neither. I have no problem with books light on plot - I love them. However, if there's not much plot, the characters better be interesting. The characters in Dreaming Water are not. They were too perfect. You have Cate, a selfless mother who is one of those beautiful women who allegedly don't know they're beautiufl, who never has any lasting resentment towards her daughter - no, everything she feels is pure sympathy and regret on Hana's behalf. (Later, we find out thta her given name, Caterina, means "pure" - I have to say, that infuriated me with how cheesy and browbeating that is -okay, I get it. She's a great mom.) Hana isn't just a normal girl, she's brilliant, although we are only ever told that. I never see that she's brilliant. And she never rebels, never is angry about her situation, only appears to have fleeting thoughts about what she's missing. And the father, Max, is the perfect man, who doesn't even show much pain or anger or any emotion at all when he talks about the internment camp he was forced into as a child. (As for the backstory between the Max and Cate...holy cliche, Batman! The grandparents are also heavily cliched - loud, boisterous Italians on one side, quiet and meek and wise Japanese on the other side - it bothered me that the Italian grandparents seemed so marginalized.) Because I found the characters so annoyingly perfect (and the dialogue is often so stilted it made me cringe), I just couldn't find any meaning to the story. The story consists of, when it's boiled down to it, Hana and Cate wallowing in what their lives have become. And with just one visit from an old friend, everything suddenly becomes okay. The writing just wasn't pretty enough to make it worth the time I spent reading. The story was unsatisfying, because there really WAS no story.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Kate

    A beautifully written book. Cate and Hana are mother and daughter and Hana is dying of Werner’s Syndrome – a disease that causes premature aging. The story is told primarily from the perspective of these two women and is primarily their story, but about half way through Josephine is introduced. Josephine is Hana’s adolescent god-daughter. Her voice is an intrusion. She interrupts/disrupts the narrative and it is brilliant. It echoes and foreshadows the interruption/disruption that Laura, Josephi A beautifully written book. Cate and Hana are mother and daughter and Hana is dying of Werner’s Syndrome – a disease that causes premature aging. The story is told primarily from the perspective of these two women and is primarily their story, but about half way through Josephine is introduced. Josephine is Hana’s adolescent god-daughter. Her voice is an intrusion. She interrupts/disrupts the narrative and it is brilliant. It echoes and foreshadows the interruption/disruption that Laura, Josephine’s mother and Hana’s best friend, brings to Cate and Hana’s lives. In the wake of Max’s, the husband and father, death, Cate and Hana have folded in on themselves becoming an island of loneliness and isolation where both women are waiting for death. Josephine’s voice and Laura’s visit break that torpor and rip the story wide open. These two things revitalize and refresh the reader, reminding us that we are not dead yet. Tsukiyama masterfully negotiations this invasion so that my first reaction is rejection of this new voice, a dread of the awkward painfulness that I anticipate this visit will bring. But by the end, through the poignancy and heartbreak, I am rejoicing.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Betsy

    Once again, I enjoyed a book by Gail Tsukiyama. The author's Japanese roots and her knowledge of the internment of the Japanese during WWII both play a role here as does her familiarity with Northern California. But I wonder whether she has a personal relationship, as well, to Werner's syndrome, which has such a large part in this book. I had never heard of this affliction, which ages a person far too early. It sounds horrible. I found Tsukiyama's description of the disease through one of the ce Once again, I enjoyed a book by Gail Tsukiyama. The author's Japanese roots and her knowledge of the internment of the Japanese during WWII both play a role here as does her familiarity with Northern California. But I wonder whether she has a personal relationship, as well, to Werner's syndrome, which has such a large part in this book. I had never heard of this affliction, which ages a person far too early. It sounds horrible. I found Tsukiyama's description of the disease through one of the central characters both poignant and gripping. Would that friendships between girls be as mutually supportive throughout the school years as is the friendship between two of the women in this novel. I can't imagine a young woman being mature enough to "hang in" with a friend through all the ups and downs of K-12, with cliques and popularity contests, etc.. But it works in this book. It looks as if I still have a few more Tsukiyama books to read. Hurrah!

  12. 4 out of 5

    ☮Karen

    This is probably my favorite Tsukiyama book yet. It deals with the topic of Werner's syndrome, a disease that makes (usually Oriental) people age twice as fast as normal. This story has a mother, widowed by Max, a Japanese American, and their daughter Hana, who is afflicted with the disease. Hana is 38 but looks 80, her organs and arteries are as if they were 80, yet in her head she is still 38 and very self conscious of the physical changes she is ungergoing. The mother-daughter relationship is This is probably my favorite Tsukiyama book yet. It deals with the topic of Werner's syndrome, a disease that makes (usually Oriental) people age twice as fast as normal. This story has a mother, widowed by Max, a Japanese American, and their daughter Hana, who is afflicted with the disease. Hana is 38 but looks 80, her organs and arteries are as if they were 80, yet in her head she is still 38 and very self conscious of the physical changes she is ungergoing. The mother-daughter relationship is endearing, and the disease makes them stronger and more empathetic.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Michelle

    This is my first Gail Tsukiyama novel. She manages to weave many stories into one story, carefully bringing it all together in one amazing tapestry. She uses refreshing and unique descriptions which are a joy to read. Changing the narrators throughout the story to reflect three very different perspectives on life adds so much texture and depth to the novel. Ms. Tuskiymam ends her novel perfectly, exactly in the right place of the story, leaving the remainder to the reader's imagination.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Bonnie G

    This would have made a good short story. Too much time spent on mother mulling over the disease and what life would have been like without it. You can tell this is a first novel, and I like her later ones better.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Sally

    This is 1 of my favorites, by 1 of my favorite authors. This is a very touching story.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Msmith

    A rather sad story that was depressing at times. This was not my favorite book .

  17. 5 out of 5

    Hayley Shaver

    I loved this book. This is a book told from three different views - - Cate's, Hana's, and Josephine's. The book being told this way is perfect for the plot. It makes it seem real. Hana is aging twice as fast as usual because she has Werner's Syndrome. Cate is already struggling as a widow, and seeing her daughter Hana dying quickly is making her overwrought. Both women are drawn into their past, remembering moments that have shaped them. Hana's best friend Laura has moved long ago to New York, a I loved this book. This is a book told from three different views - - Cate's, Hana's, and Josephine's. The book being told this way is perfect for the plot. It makes it seem real. Hana is aging twice as fast as usual because she has Werner's Syndrome. Cate is already struggling as a widow, and seeing her daughter Hana dying quickly is making her overwrought. Both women are drawn into their past, remembering moments that have shaped them. Hana's best friend Laura has moved long ago to New York, and is a successful attorney with two daughters and a broken marriage. Josephine and Camille have not seen their godmother Hana since they were babies. Laura wants to go see Hana again and to bring the girls, but Hana doesn't want to be seen as she is - - old before her time in a fragile shell of a body. Hana refuses to see Laura, but Laura and the girls come anyways. This book was very emotionally touching, and if you are a crier while reading touching books (I'm not) it might be wise to keep tissues near at hand. I will definitely read more of this author's stories.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Suzi

    Gail Tsukiyama is one of my favorite authors, but this is not my favorite of her books. I waited and waited for something to happen, some color to be added, and not until three quarters of the way through the story did we get a brief glimpse of movement, which ended the book very predictably. It was more of a long description than a story, and the topic and characters had so much potential to be interesting but were ho-hum. By the end I just wanted to skip over the chapters describing the mother Gail Tsukiyama is one of my favorite authors, but this is not my favorite of her books. I waited and waited for something to happen, some color to be added, and not until three quarters of the way through the story did we get a brief glimpse of movement, which ended the book very predictably. It was more of a long description than a story, and the topic and characters had so much potential to be interesting but were ho-hum. By the end I just wanted to skip over the chapters describing the mother’s thoughts because they were just more and more of the same. Of course, Tsukiyama’s writing style was beautiful, but without any depth in the story, I was really disappointed. If it were most other writers, I would probably give it 3 stars, but because I know how incredibly well she can write, I have to give it 2 stars. Her later books are so, so much better, and I would suggest skipping this one.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Beverly

    Hana is suffering from Werner's syndrome, a disease that makes a person age at twice the rate of a healthy individual. At 38, Hana has the appearance of an eighty-year-old. Cate, her mother, is caring for her while struggling with her grief at losing her husband, Max. Cate escapes to her beloved garden and Hana reads and writes letters. Each find themselves drawn into their pasts, remembering the joyous and challenging events that have shaped them. One of the great joys of Hana's life has been h Hana is suffering from Werner's syndrome, a disease that makes a person age at twice the rate of a healthy individual. At 38, Hana has the appearance of an eighty-year-old. Cate, her mother, is caring for her while struggling with her grief at losing her husband, Max. Cate escapes to her beloved garden and Hana reads and writes letters. Each find themselves drawn into their pasts, remembering the joyous and challenging events that have shaped them. One of the great joys of Hana's life has been her relationship with her best friend Laura. Laura has moved to New York from their hometown in California and has two daughters, Josephine and Camille. She begs Hana to let her bring her daughters to meet her, feeling that Josephine, in particular, needs to have Hana in her life. Despite Hana's latest refusal, Laura decides to come anyway. When Laura's loud, energetic, and troubled world collides with Hana and Cate's daily routine, the story really begins. A beautiful novel and so inspiring.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Anne

    I've enjoyed a number of books by Tsukiyama, including The Samurai's Garden, The Street of a Thousand Blossoms, and The Language of Threads. I always find her stories engaging and her writing beautiful and straight-forward. In Dreaming Water, Cate steel grieving the loss of her husband, has to face the fact that her adult daughter, Hana, is dying from a rare disease. As Cate and Hana come to terms with their pasts and the future they don't want to face, one of Hana's old friends comes back into I've enjoyed a number of books by Tsukiyama, including The Samurai's Garden, The Street of a Thousand Blossoms, and The Language of Threads. I always find her stories engaging and her writing beautiful and straight-forward. In Dreaming Water, Cate steel grieving the loss of her husband, has to face the fact that her adult daughter, Hana, is dying from a rare disease. As Cate and Hana come to terms with their pasts and the future they don't want to face, one of Hana's old friends comes back into the picture - and the book explores their friendships and how each one deals with the end in their own way.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Jaimie

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. First read this in high school but never had the chance to complete it. When I read the back of the book, it briefly summarized about Hana having Werner’s Syndrome. I became curious about the aging disease and wondered how Hana handled it throughout her life. Overall, the novel focuses on Hana’s relationship with her family (specifically with her widowed mother Cate) and her childhood friend Laura and her two daughters Josephine and Camille. It was interesting to read different perspectives from First read this in high school but never had the chance to complete it. When I read the back of the book, it briefly summarized about Hana having Werner’s Syndrome. I became curious about the aging disease and wondered how Hana handled it throughout her life. Overall, the novel focuses on Hana’s relationship with her family (specifically with her widowed mother Cate) and her childhood friend Laura and her two daughters Josephine and Camille. It was interesting to read different perspectives from three of the characters of different generations on how they were all learning and coping with Werner Syndrome.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Dorothea

    Such a BEAUTIFUL book - those were the words that I said as I finished it. I just adored how the author, Gail Tsukiyama, decribes the story in multiple voices making it so rich and vibrant. I never had heard of Werner's Syndrome and this novel just added such a lovely and loving angle to such a heart-breaking disease. All of Gail Tsukiyama's books are amazing, but this has to be my favorite. My goodness, it will stay with me for a very long time. Definitely recommend it!

  23. 4 out of 5

    Dee

    I liked the characters, so the (sweet) slowness of the story was not a distraction. The information about Werner's was interesting - albeit troubling - and the ending a bit "up in the air." I wouldn't recommend that you rush out to read it - but if you come across a copy, it might be worth picking up...

  24. 5 out of 5

    Wilfred Wong

    Dreaming Water is touching and personal. The characters speaking from their hearts and the words are painful and emotional. This is the first book I have read from Gail Tsukiyama and I found it riveting in a slow and deliberate way in which each character explained how they felt. The ending and the duration of the story were the only confusing parts of this novel.

  25. 4 out of 5

    June Meehan

    I liked this book a lot but wonder if anyone else was bothered by Hana calling her mother "Cate". They had such a beautiful close relationship and I feel that it diminishes the mother-daughter aspect of it. Cate's identity IS Hana, all she is, she does for and with Hana, she is a true unconditional loving mother. Please call her mom or mother. And same goes for Max, her father.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Becky

    As a mother to a daughter I love very much and a friend to a woman I haven't seen in person in years, I could relate to both Cate and Hana. I thought it was written well, the dialogue was a bit unreal but the first-person thoughts were believable.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Lauren M

    A quick but thoughtful story about illness, aging, immigration, and the long-reaching effects of Japanese internment.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Alyssa

    Meh...this was a quick read, but pretty depressing and predictable. Wouldn't recommend as a favorite, but it passes the time.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Laurie Buchanan

    Lucid and lyrical, DREAMING WATER was a joy to read. Much like an exquisite string of pearls, each of Gail Tsukiyama’s words was carefully chosen and thoughtfully placed for the perfect outcome.

  30. 5 out of 5

    TOTO from Kansas

    It was an OK read, characters not very interesting, but overall OK

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