Kristina McMorris follows up the success of her first novel Letters from Home - a World War II piece - with her newly released novel that explores the effects of war from many points of view - Bridge of Scarlet Leaves.
1941, California. Maddie Kern and her brother TJ are still reeling from the loss of their mother in a car wreck and the subsequent catatonic retreat of their father into a world of his own. TJ is bent on protecting his sister and making sure she succeeds in her music career. Maddie is afraid to tell him that she has fallen in love with his best friend - Lane Moritomo - an American born son of Japanese immigrants. Determined to be together, they run away to Seattle to elope. In Seattle is is legal for inter racial couples to be married, but not in California. Doesn't that just make you stop and think? Illegal for inter racial couples...
Lane and Maddie are on their way home the next day when Pearl Harbor is bombed. And their world is torn apart. Lane's family is sent to the internment camps. (a side note - this was not confined to the US; the Canadian government also sent those of Japanese descent to camps. Eco-Activist David Suzuki was brought up in a camp) TJ impulsively joins the Army and Maddie - she wants to be with the husband she loves.
Hate, bigotry, loyalty, duty, fear and the horrors of war are explored and juxtaposed with hope, love, determination, honor, friendship and forgiveness. McMorris examines these themes through the eyes of many characters, providing alternate viewpoints for each. TJ is full of anger and a character I discounted until later in the book. Maddie's best friend, co-workers and neighbours all have a different take. But it is Lane that suffered with the most. He is torn between his love for Maddie, his love for his sister, his sense of duty towards his family and his need to prove himself as a loyal American. He is seen as a traitor by both sides. Maddie suprised me many times - she was only nineteen when she married Lane. Her determination in this time period to go against the norm and follow her heart was stirring.
McMorris takes many factual pieces of history and weaves them into her story. Japanese Americans who were in Japan when war was declared were conscripted and forced to fight against America. There were many American Caucasian wives who refused to leave their Japanese husbands and children and chose to live in the camps as well.
While McMorris has based her book on a certain time period, as I was reading I thought - this story could be written about many time periods. The hate shown towards race, religion, beliefs and gender is unfortunately a story that continues to be written every day.
Kristina McMorris injects a keen insight into Bridge of Scarlet Leaves. "As the daughter of a Japanese immigrant father and Caucasian American mother, Kristina grew up living between these two cultures. Through Bridge of Scarlet Leaves she hopes to share with readers a unique perspective of an intriguing, and often tragic, portion of our country's history, while also honoring a diverse range of quiet heroes."
And that she has. I very much enjoyed Bridge of Scarlet Leaves. You can read an excerpt here. The book also contains a discussion guide for book clubs. You can find Kristina on Facebook, on Twitter.
Those who enjoyed Kristin Hannah's or Sarah Jio's latest books will enjoy this title.