The Fortune Follies by Catori Sarmiento takes us back in time to a very different version of life after the Second World War. The author has created a totally different backstory to the defeat of the Japanese. Instead of dropping two nuclear bombs on Japan, the Japanese army was defeated by a mechanical army of soldiers created essentially by one man, Robert Sinclair and his company Sinclair Industries. Sarah Igarashi, of Japanese extraction, along with her entire family were interred during the war, as a precaution but now she has decided to leave her poverty-stricken native Alaska and head to Seattle, where her cousin Penny, she assumes, is living a life of luxury on an inheritance that Sarah believes her family is entitled to some of also. When she arrives in Seattle, she quickly realizes the streets are not paved with gold and her cousin has no intention of sharing their inheritance with her. As a non-citizen of Seattle, Sarah has few rights and is forced to work long, hard hours at Sinclair Industries, for minimal wages, just to survive. Against a background of gangs, the Japanese underworld and a massive earthquake that strikes Seattle, Sarah must somehow find her place and her way in this alien environment.
I felt the premise for The Fortune Follies was unique and interesting. The idea that America post-war would become a repressive, almost fascist society was interesting. The struggles of the non-citizens in Seattle, as opposed to those who had citizenship resonated with me as being not too different from the problems faced by undocumented immigrants in the US of the twenty-first century. Author Catori Sarmiento takes us inside a dark, Japanese underworld and a city ruled by gang violence and the ever present, overarching spectre of Sinclair Industries. The writing style, was at times, beautifully descriptive, however the scene changes were often abrupt and unsignalled, which as a reader had me struggling at times. The POV’s change constantly between Sarah and her cousin Penny, which was fine and gave variety to the story. The two principal characters were well-drawn as almost opposites, despite them being cousins. I particularly enjoyed the tension and interactions between Sarah, Penny & George (family) in contrast to the warmth and friendship between Sarah, Ruth and some of the other rebels (comrades). All in all, an interesting idea and one worth delving into.