Thursday, February 23, 2012

Jana Reviews Bridge of Scarlet Leaves by Kristina McMorris

Title and Author: Bridge Of Scarlet Leaves by Kristina McMorris
Publishing Info: February 28, 2012 (March 2012) by Kensington US, Avon/HarperCollins UK (will be released in Original trade paperback, retailing at $15 US/$16.95 Can.)
Special Features: Discussion Guide and Asian-fusion recipes
How I got this book: Kristina contacted TB&TB, and offered up a copy if someone was interested. I snatched it up immediately.
Why I read this book: I was born in Japan, and was excited to read a book with ties to my birthplace.
Stars: 4

"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. 

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."

 (Watch this trailer. It's amazing, and tells a lot about the book, and what inspired Kristina to tell this story.)

I was incredibly excited to have the opportunity to read this book. 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.

I really felt for Maddie and Lane throughout the entire book. Their relationship was kept a secret, 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. Both their families were incredibly against their marriage. Maddie's brother was so mad about it that it solidified his decision to join the army and fight the Japanese. 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.

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. You only had to be 1/16th Japanese to receive this kind of punishment. Children were taken from their families. 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. I'm grateful to Kristina for educating me.

Kristina's writing style is gorgeous. She uses symbolic and lyrical passages that distract you from all the underlying sadness. I felt so many different emotions throughout. The heartwarming romance, the constant hope of a better life for these people, and the devastating tortures and death.

The Bridge of Scarlet Leaves a versatile read, and has a little bit of everything. Kristina painted the war as it really was, and I think it's good to be reminded of what mankind is capable of. I think the main message of this book is to remember our pasts, learn from the, and make changes to better the future. I love that!

 About the author: Kristina McMorris

The recipient of nearly twenty national literary awards, Kristina McMorris is the author of Bridge of Scarlet Leaves, declared a "gripping story [that] hits all the right chords" by Publishers Weekly and a "sweeping yet intimate novel" by Kirkus Reviews. Her critically praised debut novel, Letters from Home, inspired by her grandparents' WWII courtship, achieved additional acclaim as a Reader's Digest Select Editions feature, a Doubleday/Literary Guild selection, and a 2011 Goodreads Choice Awards semifinalist for Best Historical Fiction. A host of weekly TV shows since age nine, including an Emmy® Award-winning program, Kristina has been named one of Portland's "40 Under 40" by The Business Journal. She lives with her husband and two sons in the Pacific Northwest, where she refuses to own an umbrella.


  1. This sounds really good; may have to pick it up when it gets released here :)

  2. Great review, Jana. I love it when I find a book that connects with me on such a personal level, too.

    When I taught grade 10 Canadian history I got to teach about the Japanese-Canadian internment camps on our west coast, their possessions confiscated. I got the kids to do parallels between how we treated these immigrants with how the Jews were treated in Europe (Ven diagrams are such nerdy fun!), mostly to help them realise that it wasn't a matter of Hitler=bad, us=good. After all, the Allied countries turned away boatloads of Jewish refugees because they were all pretty prejudiced against them. Wouldn't have killed them, but didn't want them (or the problems they figured they'd have with them). It's all so sad. But I had never heard of any of this when I went to school back in Australia - we're terrible at studying history, much to our shame. It wasn't even a subject offered at my high school (no funding).

    But I hadn't heard of the Japanese-Americans being forced into the U.S. army before. I'm surprised at it (I wouldn't have thought they'd be considered trust-worthy enough), and yet not. And I'm glad they got an apology.

    1. Shannon, thanks for sharing your experience! I didn't know the Japanese-Canadians went through something similar. I've never learned about Canadian (or Australian) history. I got a survey of the ancient World, but that was about it. There's so much we don't know about other countries, and there is SO much to learn.

  3. This sounds like such an interesting perspective on WWII historical fiction. Great review!

  4. Jana, I'm so happy the story touched you. Thanks once again for the thoughtful and generous review!

    1. You're welcome! Thanks for sending it to me!

  5. This book sounds INCREDIBLE. I've always admired authors who can take events in history and weave them into a tale that is compelling, truthful and interesting. It sounds like Kristina has done a wonderful job with this novel and I look forward to reading it, especially since I'm an ardent admirer of the Japanese culture.

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Alexa! I'm a huge admirer of Japanese culture as well. :)

  6. I think they taught the internment camps when I was in grade school, but it was something that was glossed over (Much like any history after WWII but that is another discussion..).

    I'm glad you connected with this book. It sounds brilliant. And the cover is gorgeous. Maybe I'll have to get it before I go to Japan in the summer. :)

    Great review :)

  7. Thanks so much for the post. Great read!! Really looking forward to read more. Want more.

  8. This sounds amazing! I love stories about string players. :)


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