The three prominent relationships in The River Ki are all very different due to the different times and people, but all of them have one thing in common--Hana. She is the stronghold throughout the book, not just because she is the main character, but because of her inordinate strength and spirit. She got much of the spirit from her grandmother, Toyono, who raised her after the death of her mother, Mio.
Toyono was a prominent figure in Hana's life, coaching her through all her education in the ways of a woman. She was demanding but loving. She expected the best from her grand daughter and Hana delivered. Hana attended Wakayama Girls' School where she excelled in her studies, learning a beautiful hand and all the grace and elegance that a proper woman should have.
With the superstitions of Toyono regarding marriage, it seems a miracle that Hana was married at all; let alone even to the person Toyono thought most suitable.
Of course this meant that Toyono, who had never spent a day away from Hana, would have to let go. From the moment that Hana was promised, Toyono began to treat her more elegantly and politely, trying to convince herself that Hana was no longer a member of the Kimoto family, but belonged to the Matani family. All the superstition included in finding a suitable husband was part of Toyono's tradition--not opposing the flow of the River Ki. Toyono knew that anyone who dared marry against the flow of the river would certainly end up in a state of sorrow.
The morning of Hana's departure for her marriage and the Matani family left much to be desired by both of the parties. Hana longed for Toyono as her boat floated towards her new home. Toyono was cold, distant and...