Bridge Of Scarlet Leaves by Kristina McMorris
Published by Kensington Publishing on February 28, 2012
Genres: Historical Fiction, Romance
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A skilled violinist sacrifices her career aspirations and family's approval to secretly elope with her Japanese American boyfriend -- the night before Pearl Harbor is bombed. Torn between sides, she will make choices few people in history dared.
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.
I was born in Japan, on an air force base. My mom has told me stories of the amazing people and the friends she had while we were there. A school of boys from Japan came to my junior high school in September of 2001, and I got to host one of them. He shadowed me for a week. It was an amazing experience, especially since they were here on the day of the September 11th terrorist attacks. They got to share in our tragedy, and I saw legitimate sorrow and concern for us in their eyes. I heard their condolences through their broken English. Japan is filled with amazing people, and I can’t imagine the prejudices they have dealt with, especially during the time period of this story. As always, my main points are bolded! :)
1. I really felt for Maddie and Lane throughout the entire book. Their relationship was kept a secret, they never showed any signs of affection in public, they had to elope last-minute because Lane’s father had already picked out his wife, and then the war and accompanying tragedies split them apart and made their lives so much harder than anyone deserves. Lane’s parents were against the marriage, and Maddie’s brother (TJ) demanded she get a divorce, even though Lane was his best friend. Actually, TJ was so mad about it that it helped fuel his decision to join the Army to fight against the Japanese, often picturing Lane in his mind as he shot the enemy.
2. Before I read this book, I had not understood the magnitude of the racism and segregation the Japanese-Americans dealt with. I admire both Maddie and Lane for their strength, for following their hearts, for looking past the opinions of others, and for sticking with each other, no matter the hardships involved. They were both so young, yet they had a more realistic picture of how life should be than the majority of the people they came across.
3. I learned a lot from this book. I was not aware of the camps the Japanese-Americans had to stay in once Pearl Harbor was bombed. The entire west coast pushed them away, out of their homes and businesses, searched and ravaged their homes for signs of treason, and forced them into dirty camps like prisoners. This internment lasted the duration of World War II. You only had to be 1/16th Japanese to receive this kind of punishment. Children were ripped away from their families. Spouses were split up. The Japanese-Americans who were visiting/vacationing in Japan during the attack, were not allowed to return to the USA. In fact, they were forced into the Japanese Army and had to fight against their own friends and family back home. Brothers, on opposite sides of the war, were forced to fight one another. And it happened. In the author’s note at the end of the book, she mentions a brother shooting down an enemy plane, only to find out his brother was on it. My heart broke. Some of the Japanese-Americans were forced to enlist in the US Army and spy on the Japanese, translating documents and sneaking into the fields at night to eavesdrop on their plans of ambush or attack. The ones who were not forced to enlist marked the reluctant soldiers as traitors, and put their families on “death lists”. These are not the things we’retaught in school, or at least I wasn’t. I’m grateful to Kristina for educating me with her extremely well-researched facts–heartbreaking as they may be.
4. Kristina’s writing style is gorgeous. She intertwines subtle symbolic messages and melodies with a sweet Romeo and Juliet kind of romance, and a cold, unfeeling war. Her lovely, descriptive passages soften the blow of the poignant sequences of war and loss.
5. This is the kind of book that one experiences, rather than reads. I felt so many different emotions throughout. The romance was heartwarming, the ever-present glimmers of opposing hearts softening made me hopeful that love knows no bounds, the tortures and deaths were devastating. It was quite an emotional roller coaster that didn’t end until the final page.
6. This book is much heavier than I had expected, and I don’t usually venture into such deeply emotional reads. I’m glad I read it, though. It’s a versatile read, and has a little bit of everything: romance, action, suspense, loss, coming of age, history, symbolism, and growth. Did everything end up the way I wanted? No. But I respect the author for not tying everything up into a perfect bow. If she had, it would have been insulting to the survivors and their families, not to mention those that perished. She painted the war as it really was without sugarcoating it. I think it’s good to be reminded of what humans are capable of.
Maddie and Lane, along with countless numbers of other inter-racial couples and friendships, crossed over the barrier, and formed relationships that helped unite the races. Years later (and a long time coming), in 1988 President Reagan officially apologized to the Japanese-Americans for their internment during WW2. Kristina ends her author’s note with a quote that I loved: “Indeed, history has much to teach us, if only we are willing to learn.” I think that is so true, and beautifully sums up the entire message of this book. I’d recommend this to pretty much anyone, but if you love historical fiction with a hint of romance, I bet you’ll like this. :)