American Senior - - BOOKS FICTION -

The first thing you may no­tice about best­selling nov­el­ist Is­abel Al­lende’s new­est book, The Ja­panese Lover, is its gor­geously de­signed cover. Be­yond that, her story quickly pulls you in and comes to life. This epic novel spans eighty years and the lives of her two fe­male pro­tag­o­nists: Alma

Be­lasco, the ma­tri­arch of a prom­i­nent San Fran­cisco fam­ily and Irina Bazili, her part-time care­giver and con­fi­dant. Set in present day at a se­nior liv­ing com­mu­nity, Alma’s life seems shrouded by a great mys­te­ri­ous love. Irina was raised by her grand­par­ents in pover­tys­tricken Poland, and has a deep af­fec­tion and rev­er­ence for the el­ders she works with, par­tic­u­lar Alma. Alma’s story is rooted to 1939 when, as a young Jewish-Polish girl, she is sep­a­rated from her brother and par­ents and sent from Poland to the safety of her aunt and un­cle in San Fran­cisco. Feel­ing alone and aban­doned, she is drawn to the Ja­panese gar­dener’s son, Ichimei Fukuda, and quickly de­vel­ops a close friend­ship. Af­ter Pearl Har­bor is bombed, the Fukuda fam­ily is forced to move into a Ja­panese in­tern­ment camp, first housed in a race­track and then in a camp in the desert of Utah. De­spite be­ing sep­a­rated by cir­cum­stances, Alma and Ichimei are se­cretly re­united many times through­out their life­times. Their love story is re­vealed through the let­ters and to­kens sent from Ichimei, and by what Alma later con­fides to Irina and her grand­son, Seth. The Ja­panese Lover touches on the ag­ing process and legacy, race and iden­tity, aban­don­ment and rec­on­cil­i­a­tion, and our ca­pac­ity for love. It is a de­li­cious read— just don’t ex­pect it to run too deep into the his­tor­i­cal ac­counts of the last cen­tury.

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