The Japanese Lover by Isabel Allende

The Japanese Lover will be published November 3, 2015.

This was such a beautiful story that I was fortunate to come across and read. It reminded me quite a bit of another historical fiction book which I absolutely loved called Letters to the Lost by Iona Grey. Like in Grey’s book, The Japanese Lover alternates between present day and and back to the 1940’s. Alma is an elderly woman who has checked herself into Lark House, a beautiful assisted living facility for the elderly. As the story progresses, we find out more and more about Alma’s life, including many secret meetings and correspondence with Ichimei Fukuda. Alma met Ichimei when they were 8 years old and Ichimei’s father was the gardener for Sea Cliff, the mansion owned by the Belasco’s, Alma’s aunt and uncle. Ichimei and his family were interned in a camp at Topaz for 3 years, along with thousands of other Japanese Americans living in California. Alma’s family, because they were Jewish, sent her away from Poland at the start of the war to live with the Belasco’s in America. Her family was sent to concentration camps during the Holocaust, and she never saw her parents again. Allende’s story portrays this heart breaking time for so many families with honesty and dignity. Running alongside of Alma’s story is that of her caregiver at Lark House, Irina. Irina, born in Moldovia, came to America and endured a horrifying adolescence, which she is still trying to keep secret and escape from when she meets Alma and her grandson, Seth, at Lark House. Alma takes Irina under her wing almost like a niece, as Irina helps her with daily tasks and takes care of her personal affairs. Irina and Seth realize that Alma is receiving letters from Ichimei, some 70 years after they first met. Seth finds himself falling for Irina, but she is reluctant to let anyone get close to her because of her embarrassment about the past. As the story comes to an end, many long buried secrets regarding Alma, her cousin (who would later become her husband) Nathaniel, Ichimei, Irina, and a newcomer to Lark House named Lenny who seems to know Alma very well. This book will definitely keep you reading until the last page. I absolutely loved the story.

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