Sunday, December 9, 2012
Book Review of Bridge of Scarlet Leaves by Kristina Yoshida McMorris
Author: Kristina Yoshida McMorris
Publisher: Kensington Fiction
Type of book: 1941-1946?, friendship, loyalty, brotherhood, crush, interracial relationship, Japanese male/American female, music, secrets, letting go, World War II, Internment camps, fighting, POW
Year it was published: 2012
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.
The characters I liked were Lane and TJ, although I wished to have known more about Lane and what forces shaped him to become the way he was. TJ was also interesting, but once more we are given glimpses instead of the whole character. The personalities felt slightly awkward and the reader isn't privy to their development. The author tries to show development through Lane, but I felt that I only got puzzle pieces instead of the whole picture. Honestly this book was written to be a movie because I can imagine that the movie would add subtlety and non-verbal cues that seemed to be a bit absent from the novel. (Keep in mind this is my second time reading the novel.) I also think the author was grappling with too many factors and had to make novel accessible to general public to enjoy, and I imagine that a lot of connecting parts got cut out of the novel.
There are lots of themes from the book: no matter the side, war means losing and paranoia, fight for a noble cause instead of for yourself, and emotion is very important to creativity.
While the characters were on a bit weak side, the research and the story itself were the novel's strengths. The author has done very well in setting up the 1940s atmosphere from littlest details to big details, and she doesn't bog this book down with information or history which would turn off people who don't like history or find it boring. I also enjoyed the interracial love aspect, although I do wish that more could be told about Japanese culture besides the Obon Festival, (something else that is lacking,) the story is never boring and thoughts of TJ, Lane and Maddie were interesting, and for Lane were gut wrenching. This is also told in third person narrative from those three points of views.
Goodreads author profile
The United States
Literature & Fiction, Historical Fiction
About this author
KRISTINA MCMORRIS is a graduate of Pepperdine University and the recipient of nearly twenty national literary awards. A host of weekly TV shows since age nine, including an Emmy® Award-winning program, she penned her debut novel, Letters from Home (Kensington Books, Avon/HarperCollins UK), based on inspiration from her grandparents' wartime courtship. This critically acclaimed book was declared a must-read by Woman's Day magazine and achieved additional recognition as a Reader's Digest Select Editions feature, a Doubleday/Literary Guild selection, and a 2011 Goodreads Choice Awards semifinalist for Best Historical Fiction. Her second novel, Bridge of Scarlet Leaves, was released March 2012 to equally high critical praise. Named one of Portland's "40 Under 40" by The Business Journal, Kristina lives with her husband and two sons in the Pacific Northwest. (less)
(I would like to thank Audra of unabridged chick for choosing me as a winner of Bridge of Scarlet Leaves by Kristina Yoshida McMorris)
I have read this book twice: first time in a desperate attempt to read it when it came out from a library. My initial impressions was the lack of love chemistry between Maddie and Lane, but it was still a very touching story on many levels. I also was sad to find out that the event I thought would happen actually did happen. The second time reading through this, although I still feel that there wasn't a lot of love chemistry between Maddie and Lane, I paid more attention to how the war was seen through Lane's and TJ's eyes; from special agents invading Lane's home and privacy, to TJ abandoning his principles and what he knows of Lane to paranoia due to Maddie's and Lane's deception. While there were many strengths that the author exhibited in the story such as emotion as well as causing Lane to be a multi-dimensional character and something more than an "archetype" of an Asian male, there were weaknesses as well. I felt that the author was rushing through the last few parts of the novel, at least the part past Internment Camp. The conflicts that should have been evolved, were, instead few brief pages before quick resolution. Other than that, a wonderful and beautiful story of love and friendship. Highly recommended.
4 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)