At the family's beach house, though, he has the company of long-time family retainer Matsu, who keeps the garden and house for the family.
In reality, this is the story of Matsu and his relationships with two other characters in the tale: Kenzo, who has been Matsu's best friend since childhood, and Sachi, the woman who lives in the Yamaguchi leper colony. Stephen is the vehicle for telling their stories and for showing how they intersect.
Author Gail Tsukiyama's prose is absolutely gorgeous; she wields her words as Stephen wields his paintbrushes to create a picture of a world where people are having trouble dealing with social change. This is also a story of love, loyalty, and even betrayal on many levels.
I enjoyed the book and recommend it highly to fans of literary fiction.