Los Angeles, 1941. Violinist Maddie Kern’s life seemed destined to unfold with the predictable elegance of a Bach concerto. Then she fell in love with Lane Moritomo. Her brother’s best friend, Lane is the handsome, ambitious son of Japanese immigrants. Maddie was prepared for disapproval from their families, but when Pearl Harbor is bombed the day after she and Lane elope, the full force of their decision becomes apparent. In the eyes of a fearful nation, Lane is no longer just an outsider, but an enemy.
When her husband is interned at a war relocation camp, Maddie follows, sacrificing her Juilliard ambitions. Behind barbed wire, tension simmers and the line between patriot and traitor blurs. As Maddie strives for the hard-won acceptance of her new family, Lane risks everything to prove his allegiance to America, at tremendous cost.
Bridge of Scarlet Leaves – my first book of the year – what a powerful read. I had read a picture book a number of years ago that told the story of how the Japanese immigrants – many of them citizens of America, were herded into camps in the U.S.A once the war broke out. So I was prepared but… Kristina McMorris’ thoroughly researched, extremely well written novel opened my eyes to this time in history. I know we are meant to learn from history and not repeat its mistakes. However I suspect those who need to, don’t read these kind of books. For I know the kind of indiscriminate decisions made then could be repeated now, in most or all countries of the world. However let us read and have our hearts and minds opened.
I loved the story of Maddie – in love with Lane a son of a Japanese immigrant and a U.S. citizen. They kept their love hidden for quite awhile because of the opposition they knew they would meet. Lane was also the best friend of T.J. Maddie’s brother. T.J. took it on himself to be responsible for Maddie after their mother died and their father sunk into deep depression. T.J. would not look kindly on any relationship between Maddie and Lane.
When the war against Japan starts all their lives are changed forever. Lane’s family are sent away, T.J joins up and Maddie is determined not to be separated from Lane and sets out to find him and be with him. I really don’t want to give any more away, only to say it is a deeply emotional and at times very hard story to read. War atrocities and the camp at Manzanar (where Lane’s family ended upt) were terrible.
Yet there is powerful hope and a sense of the importance of life and living. I loved the exploration of the Japanese culture and the emphasis on how important it is to reach out to each other in forgiveness, peace and hope. I loved the way Maddie integrated with Lane’s family and the blossoming of Lane’s mother and their ultimate decisions. I also loved how the latest addition to the family reaches out and awakens someone who has long been sunken in grief.
I highly recommend this book to everyone. You can also read a review and interview with Kristina McMorris over at The Reading Frenzy if you would like to know more.