Thursday, February 23, 2012

Review: Bridge of Scarlet Leaves

Summary: In this poignant and evocative novel by acclaimed author Kristina McMorris, a country is plunged into conflict and suspicion—forcing a young woman to find her place in a volatile world.

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. -- Kensington

I have read and enjoyed quite a few WWII historical novels over the years, so when I saw that Kristina McMorris had a new book out called BRIDGE OF SCARLET LEAVES that not only takes place during World War II but that also explores the Japanese relocation camps, I was pretty excited to check it out. Last year around this same time, I reviewed her novel LETTERS FROM HOME (which also took place during World War II) and was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it. I was curious to see if her second book would have the same affect on me.

Overall, I did enjoy the BRIDGE OF SCARLET LEAVES and it was much what I had expected. I'm not sure that I liked it quite as much as LETTERS FROM HOME, but it was pretty darn close. In fact, I could definitely tell that BRIDGE OF SCARLET LEAVES was written by the same author because there were many similarities to the prior novel. Not only did both books center around World War II (albeit in entirely different areas), but there was also a strong romance storyline; and the writing was still very strong especially as it pertained to the character development.

Usually I'm not a big fan of books with a lot of romance; however, Ms. McMorris does a good job of balancing all of the story lines. There is definitely an element of love and passion in this novel but it's not over-the-top. It's just very sweet and honest. However, I think the real appeal of this novel is the character development (I felt the exact same way about LETTERS FROM HOME.) Ms. McMorris has a gift for creating very complex, yet likable characters; and I appreciate the relationships she formed between each of them.

In BRIDGE OF SCARLET LEAVES, I found that I liked all of the main characters and I was rooting for each of them in one way or another. I enjoyed seeing how much each one of them matured and/or evolved throughout the story. Even the characters that appeared to be the most damaged eventually realized the errors of their ways and were able to find some semblance of happiness. That's not to say that BRIDGE OF SCARLET LEAVES wasn't heartbreaking at times. (It is a book about a war.) It's just that this book demonstrated the importance of love, family, and support; and I was left with a general feeling of hope after I finished it.

Probably one of my favorite things about this novel is that it explored a side of World War II that is not usually found in the books I've read -- Japanese internment camps. I have read a little about this situation in our country and there is no doubt that it was a very sad (and embarrassing) time. I appreciated that the author gave readers some insight into this time period and it was apparent that she not only did a great deal of research of the subject, but that it was one that was near and dear to her heart.

BRIDGE OF SCARLET LEAVES would make a great book club selection. There is a good reading guide with fourteen thought-provoking questions as well as recipes in the back of the book which would be perfect for serving at your meeting. Some of the topics that warrant further discussion include the symbolism of the title, love, family, honor, redemption, survival, devotion, culture differences, and the prejudice. In addition, the author has a page on her website devoted to book clubs. She offers ideas for themed meetings including mock telegram invitations, clothing suggestions, and music and food ideas.

I definitely recommend BRIDGE OF SCARLET LEAVES if you are a fan of women's or WWII fiction. Thanks to the author for providing a copy of this novel.


bermudaonion said...

I'm glad to see the Japanese interment camps getting more attention in novels. It is an embarrassing part of our history, but we still need to remember it.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I agree with Kathy. And I love the cover of this book!

Jenn's Bookshelves said...

I concur with everything you've said :) I reviewed this book yesterday, absolutely breathtaking.

Kristina McMorris said...

Thank you for the lovely review, Julie! I'm so happy you enjoyed the book and felt it was a good choice for book clubs. I do hope the topics in the story spark many thoughtful discussions for reading groups, as it's a part of history that is sadly being lost.

Sandy Nawrot said...

Right, you definitely don't hear much about those internment camps (Corner of Bitter and Sweet was one though that hit home). Ha! I wonder why? I'll have to keep this one in my head next time I go a-shopping.

Marg said...

This sounds like a fun read. It is good to see the hidden aspects of history being unveiled. Another book that explores the Japanese internment camps is Vivienne Schiffer's Camp Nine.

Serena said...

Another good book about internment camps. Must read this one!