Nina's Reading Blog

Comments on books I am reading/listening to

The Japanese Lover

Posted by nliakos on January 5, 2019

by Isabel Allende (Atria 2015)

I went to the library the other day and picked out three novels off my to-read list–really unusual for me. I needed to take a break from all the seriousness of The Color of Law and similar books. It’s interesting how no matter how awful truth is, it doesn’t make me cry, but I’m a sucker for tear-jerker fiction.

The Japanese Lover is about passion, friendship, racism, injustice, trauma and its lingering effects, Japanese internment camps during World War Two, sex trafficking and internet child pornography, homosexuality and AIDS, aging and death. Deep stuff. Alma Belasco, saved by her doomed parents who sent her out of Poland ahead of the Nazis, has two loves in her life: one, Ichimei Fukuda, is the son of her aunt and uncle’s gardener, while the other, Nathaniel Belasco, is her cousin. Her feelings for them are strong and deep, but very different. Irina Bazili, a young Moldovan fleeing an abusive past, comes to work in the nursing home where Alma has gone to live, to the dismay of her wealthy family. Alma’s devoted grandson Seth is immediately attracted to Irina, who holds him at arm’s length. These characters and others have their own chapters as Allende weaves together their individual stories into a tapestry that spans almost a century. For example, she follows the Fukuda family to a hastily converted race track where thousands of innocent Japanese-Americans and immigrants where held until the Topaz internment camp opened in the Nevada desert, where they spent the remainder of the war, having lost everything they had worked for in this most shameful episode in our history. Allende brings this history to life and makes us care about each character, even the minor ones.


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