Book Review: Bridge of Scarlet Leaves

What an amazing read and an extremely well-written story! Thank you very much to Tyson Cornell at Rare Bird Lit for sending this book to us, greatly appreciated and has become a book I will cherish.

If you click on the cover, you can watch Kristina Morris, author of Bridge of Scarlet Leaves, describe her story.

I saw that this book was sometimes categorized as a “romance”. But please (if you’re not really in to those, like myself here) Do Not let this sway you from picking it up. It’s not a sappy love story (no way!), it is more a testament to remaining true and strong to your love and your decision to carry on in your belief in true love.

This is also a wonderful tale of friendship, perserverance and familial love. It even provides the reader with a strong dose of the torture and suffering that occurred in the Japanese-American war-relocation camps and POW camps. It all means a tremendously great read.

Every character portrayed in the book demonstrate their steadfast, strong-willed familial love and their determination to remain true to the one they honestly love. This unfolds beautifully as each must endure many, many harrowing trials and experiences immediately following the bombing of Pearl Harbor. The reader is treated to four main, brave, tenacious and uncomprimising characters:

Maddie: Maddie and TJ’s mother was killed in a car accident on New Year’s Eve as a result of their father’s drunken driving. Their father has been living in a semi-comatose state in a nursing home since the accident and therefore cannot reveal any truth as to what really happened that night. This forever casts a shadow over Maddie and TJ’s lives. Maddie is a brilliant violinist with aspirations to attend Juilliard. She falls in love in with Lane, TJ’s best friend and Japanese. Lane and Maddie secretly run off to be married, only to awake from their wedding night to find the Japanese have bombed Pearl Harbor.

TJ: TJ cannot overcome the loss of his mother and forgive his father for his part in this great loss. He feels he must protect and manage every aspect of Maddie’s life. TJ is bitterly angry with the news of his sister’s secret marriage to his best friend Lane, or “Tomo” and cannot forgive the betrayal by both.

Lane (Moritomo): is caught between his Japanese heritage/family obedience and his patriotism and pride as an American. With resolve, he disobeys his parents by marrying Maddie instead of going through with a pre-arranged marriage to a girl chosen for him from Japan. The future looks so bright for Lane as he has just married his true love and accepted an internship with a Californian senator. These dreams fall apart overnight with the events in Pearl Harbor.

With dread he realized: He wasn’t sure which blood was his, and which was the enemy’s.

Jo (she is featured in a lesser extent, but one of my favourites!): Jo is Maddie’s best friend and has great spunk and tenacity. She helps Maddie hide her romance with Lane from TJ and in the process falls in love with TJ. (She was a great character! She became secondary towards the end, but I really enjoyed reading of her and her growing relationship with TJ.)

So really, all of this relationship drama unfolds during the time of the US’s involvement in WWII. Already, the relationship between Maddie and Lane is fraught as inter-racial relationships are deeply frowned upon. Compounded now by the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Lane is now the enemy in the eyes of many Americans. Maddie and Lane are separated as all Japanese are forced in to internment in to what they call war relocation camps. Maddie then decides that her Juilliard dreams are to be cast aside and she volunteers to join Lane in the camps. Lane is determined to show his patriotism to the US and it comes at great cost for both.

TJ, still brewing with hatred for Lane and his betrayal of their friendship, and his confusion over his growing feelings for Jo, enlists and heads overseas. (on feelings for Jo: “They were both so much alike. Both concealing scars, having every reason to prevent another wound.”

His plane is shot down and he is captured and imprisoned in a POW camp. The torture and suffering he endures makes for more gripping reading and keeps those pages turning.

Each story line parallels and “bridges” the others. The love between Maddie and Lane strengthens and the friendship, all but thought lost by both TJ and Lane, and one where they are family now, comes to a head in a heroic and painfully heartbreaking, tear-soaked end.

“Proving myself a loyal American is nothing compared to proving myself a worthy man.” …Lane

It’s a story to not be missed! 4.5 stars for me.

A sparrow/suzume – often mentioned throughout the story….