Block Seventeen

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What to expect

Akiko “Jane” Thompson, a half-Japanese, half-Caucasian woman in her midthirties, is attempting to forge a quietly happy life in the Bay Area with her fiancé, Shiro. But after a bizarre car accident, things begin to unravel. An intruder ransacks their apartment but takes nothing, leaving behind only cryptic traces of his or her presence. Shiro, obsessed with government surveillance, risks their security in a plot to expose the misdeeds of his employer, the TSA. Jane’s mother has seemingly disappeared, her existence only apparent online. Jane wants to ignore these worrisome disturbances until a cry from the past robs her of all peace, forcing her to uncover a long-buried family secret.

As Jane searches for her mother, she confronts her family’s fraught history in America. She learns how they survived the incarceration of Japanese Americans, and how fear and humiliation can drive a person to commit desperate acts.

In melodic and suspenseful prose, Guthrie leads the reader to and from the past, through an unreliable present, and, inescapably, toward a shocking revelation. Block Seventeen, at times charming and light, at others disturbing and disorienting, explores how fear of the “other” continues to shape our supposedly more enlightened times.

Critics Review

  • “Together with Jane, we discover that a return to sanity for Jane and understanding for us will require recognition and an embrace of the multi-generational trauma inflicted by the Japanese-American internment of World War II, which we have all labored to deny. I highly recommend this book.”

    Midwest Book Review
  • “In her debut novel, Kimiko Guthrie creates an alternately whimsical and nightmarish thriller in which the mystery seems to remain just out of reach…With Block Seventeen, Guthrie has recreated the fear of the other and created a hauntingly visceral experience that will linger on the fringes of the amygdala.”

    Salon
  • “A sultry summer story, in which not all is as it seems…[A] powerful, lyrical work…Dorothea Lange and other conscientious photographers documented the internment experience, but nothing feels as real as the squish of mud, the bitter taste of fear, as described by Jane/Akiko and her mother. The other strong comparison I can make is with Margaret Atwood’s The Edible Woman. If you’re the kind of reader who devours Atwood, you’ll probably want to tuck in to Kimiko Guthrie.”

    Fresh Fiction
  • “A sultry summer story, in which not all is as it seems…[A] powerful, lyrical work…If you’re the kind of reader who devours Atwood, you’ll probably want to tuck in to Kimiko Guthrie.”

    Fresh Fiction
  • “In this multilayered tale, a Japanese-American woman struggles to make sense of what’s real in her life…Finely written…On one level, it’s an immigrant story. On another, it’s a story of a people betrayed by society. A story of how cultural wrongdoing impacts subsequent generations. And a story of how the children of immigrants attempt to reconcile their American lives with the lives of those who came before them.”

    Washington Independent Review of Books
  • “In this multilayered tale, a Japanese-American woman struggles to make sense of what’s real in her life…Finely written…A story of how the children of immigrants attempt to reconcile their American lives with the lives of those who came before them.”

    Washington Independent Review of Books

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