Bridge of Scarlet Leaves by Kristina McMorris, tells the story of Maddie Kern, a Juilliard-bound violinist during the 1940’s. When Maddie falls in love with and fatefully marries Japanese immigrant Lane Moritomo the day before the bombing of Pearl Harbor, her life is forever altered. Giving up her dreams of Juilliard, Maddie follows Lane across the country as America now views him as the enemy. Maddie’s brother TJ struggles to control and protect her as the war dramatically changes all three lives.
The story is told through Maddie, TJ, and Lane’s perspectives, and each chapter is presented by a different speaker. While I’m not typically a fan of frequently rotating points of view, I can see why McMorris did so: the story is not just Maddie’s, but it’s her brother’s and husband’s as well. In this case, the rotating point of view is almost a necessity as it captures the multiple dimensions the war had on a family, while propelling the story forward at a rapid pace.
I’m ashamed to admit that while I had a vague knowledge of the Japanese relocation that took place during World War II, this book has pointed out the gaping holes in my history education and culture knowledge. It’s well worth the read simply for the information one can glean from it, and it is evident that much research has gone into its creation.
McMorris has crafted a compelling story with intriguing, very believable characters, and is talented at digging down into the raw struggles of human emotion. She raises difficult questions about identity, family, dignity, and honor. I found myself very much enveloped in the characters’ lives and instantly caught up into the story. The writing is clear, natural, and has a lovely flow to it. The only issue I had with the book was that I made the mistake of reading it during lunch breaks at work: it is so fast-paced that I never wanted to put it down.