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Friday, March 2, 2012

Bridge of Scarlet Leaves...Review

About the book:
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.

Skillfully capturing one of the most controversial episodes in recent American history, Kristina McMorris draws readers into a novel filled with triumphs and heartbreaking loss--an authentic, moving testament to love, forgiveness, and the enduring music of the human spirit.

I enjoy learning about history, even when it's the dark side of history.  The treatment of Japanese Americans during World War II has always been reprehensible to me.  I understand fear, but I don't easily comprehend the decision-making process that led to relocation camps.  In Bridge of Scarlet Leaves, Kristina McMorris has captured an intimate look at the time and the essence of the Japanese American people and their WWII experience.

They knew their families might not immediately support their marriage, but when Pearl Harbor is bombed the day after Maddie Kern and Lane Moritomo elope, they are thrust into a new and difficult reality.  Suddenly, Lane isn't simply a Japanese American. He's an enemy.  An enemy who must relocate.

Maddie's fear, especially, as she realizes that she and Lane are being torn apart, is palpable.  Her determination to be with her husband at whatever cost is heartwarming.  Lane's determination to prove his patriotism ultimately leads him away from the internment camp and into war.  Maddie's brother TJ, heartsick because he views her marriage to a Japanese man as a betrayal, enlists as well.  That Lane was once his best friend doesn't matter.  Yet, as the war progresses, both men find themselves in situations they never could have imagined and their experiences bring new understandings.  Left behind at the internment camp with her young sister-in-law and a difficult mother-in-law, Maddie comes to her own understandings and discovers hidden strengths.

I thoroughly enjoyed the author notes at the back of the book and I learned, in part, that the premise of this novel began with a true account of two brothers during WWII, one who had fought for Japan and the other for America. While researching the subject, Kristina happened across a brief mention of roughly two hundred non-Japanese spouses who voluntarily lived in an internment camp. She was stunned and fascinated by the discovery, and immediately knew it was a story she needed to tell.

As the daughter of a Japanese immigrant father and Caucasian American mother, Kristina grew up living between these two cultures. Through Bridge of Scarlet Leaves she hopes to share with readers a unique perspective of an intriguing, and often tragic, portion of our country's history, while also honoring a diverse range of quiet heroes.

I think Kristina definitely achieved her goal.  And, while the ending wasn't what I wanted, it was appropriate to the story.  There are so many adjectives that come to mind as I attempt to put my thoughts about this book onto virtual paper. I loved these characters and their stories moved me beyond words. This is a story that is at once timeless, intimate, warm and lyrical as well as a poignant blend of both wretched and beautiful.

A story I thoroughly enjoyed and absolutely recommend.

Thanks to the author for the opportunity to review this book.  You can learn more about Kristina McMorris here.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 2/12

* * * * *
5/5 Stars


  1. I have been reading a lot about this book, and think it sounds like something that I would really get a lot out of. Your review has really piqued my interest, and now I will be looking for this book when I can. Thanks for the detailed and thoughtful review!

  2. I've heard lots of good things about this book. I'll definitely keep an eye out for it.

  3. I echo what Heather said. Although I have read other reviews of this I especially liked hearing about the author notes in yours.

  4. This sounds like just my kind of book. You did a great job on the review.

  5. That is a shameful time in our history, but I'm glad to see books being written about it. It's important not to forget it. This book sounds great!

  6. Holly, thank you for taking the time to write such a lovely review. I'm thrilled you enjoyed the book. And I'm just as happy to read here that other commenters are hearing good things too. :)