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.


The Cherry Harvest by Lucy Sanna

I’m so glad to have read this book. It reminded me a little bit of Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale, which is also a beautiful WWII story that I have reviewed previously. I had no idea that during WWII, German prisoners of war were used for farm labor in the states, while many of the American farmers and their sons were fighting in the war. The Cherry Harvest takes place in Door County, Wisconsin, home to many cherry orchards. The Christiansen family’s young son Ben is away at war, leaving a teenager Kate, mother Charlotte, and father Thomas to work the orchard without any workers available, as in years past. Because of the war, food and many common luxuries (such as coffee and scented soap) are scarce and if the orchard isn’t harvested and tended, the Christiansen family might not be able to keep their farm running. They decide to allow German POW’s to work on the farm, against the wishes of many of the other townspeople. Thomas befriends one of the POW’s named Karl, a teacher who is well versed in English and appreciative of the Christiansen family allowing him to live and work on the property. As Karl tutors young Kate and becomes closer to Thomas and Charlotte, decisions are made that will forever impact the family. Meanwhile, young Kate starts a secretive relationship with a rich son of a political figure. When the family receive news of the long awaited return of their son Ben from war, the story unfolds quickly and sadly. Be prepared for a heart-wrenching ending. Even with the ending being sad, I really got lost in this story. The writing was beautiful. The author described the cherries and all the things on the orchard in vivid detail, making it seem like the reader was there seeing everything in person. The story has just the right amount of romance, humor, suspense, and heartbreak. You won’t be sorry for reading it!

Letters to the Lost by Iona Grey

Letters to the Lost will be published on May 26, 2015.

This is one of the best and most beautiful stories I have read in a while, which is saying a lot because I read so many different types of books. I’ve not read anything by this author previously, but I do hope she writes more! The book has two separate story lines going on, one in 1943 London during WWII with Stella and Dan and the other in present day London with Will and Jess. Stella is a young Vicar’s wife who married too soon and not for love. Dan is an American pilot stationed in London for a short time. On the flip side, Jess is a young woman on the run from an abusive boyfriend and Will is a young man living in the shadow of his extremely handsome, successful brother, and dealing with loneliness and general unhappiness. When the characters meet up both in the past and present story lines, it is breathtaking. I won’t give away too much of the plot because I don’t like to be a spoiler. However, I will say that I was absolutely captivated by this story. I couldn’t put the book down, and when I was forced to stop reading, I couldn’t wait to dive back in and find out what happened next. The romance between both character sets was just beautiful and heartbreaking in times. It reminded me a little of The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah, and I enjoyed it just as much. Well done, Iona Grey. I’m a huge fan!!!