By Lynn Willoughby
The Japanese Lover ~ Isabel Allende
When Alma’s parents understand the danger looming in Poland in 1939, they send the twelve year old to live with her aunt in San Francisco. The food, the mansion, the clothes, the servants – all are new and overwhelming for Alma. Her only friend is the gardener’s son, Ichimei Fukuda, who is quiet and gentle, who teaches her about gardening and about life in America. Until the Japanese attack Pearl Harbour and the Fukuda family, along with thousands of others, are relocated to an internment camp, called Topaz, in the desert of Utah. The extreme hot and cold temperatures cause many deaths, hard ships, illness and depression.
Alma and Ichi maintain a relationship through letters and sketches. Their friendship turns to a love that can never be open. Even as decades pass, they cannot be together – although they continue to reconnect from time to time.
As Alma is nearing the end of her life, she moves from the family mansion to the charming and eccentric Lark House nursing home, where she meets Irina, one of the staff. Irina has her own story, of course, but though generations apart in age and altogether different financially, she and Alma develop a trust and a friendship unlike either has ever known.
This is a nice little read. There is attention to detail – historical, horticultural and artistic. There is war, there is peace, there is abandonment, there is love, there are secrets and redemption. “This is comfort food, literary rice pudding…”
- Portrait in Sepia
- The House of Spirits