“[D]uring Momiji, the season of viewing leaves, the trees in Kyoto blaze red and gold; their youthful green is gone, changed with no choice; the branch yearns to hold on, but a cold wind blows and the last leaf falls; a mere reflection on water remains, a memory of red and gold.”
Kristina McMorris, Bridge of Scarlet Leaves
Bridge of Scarlet Leaves, by Kristina McMorris, is 420 pages and was published in February of 2012. I read and loved Kristina’s first novel, Letters from Home, and it is one of the novels I gift most to people. Now, I will be able to add Bridge of Scarlet Leaves to my “gifting” list.
In November of 1941, in Los Angeles, California, violinist Maggie Kern is hiding something from her brother, TJ. She is in love with his best friend, Lane, who happens to be Japanese. TJ has always been protective of his little sister, especially since an accident that took their mother’s life and their father’s mental health, and he wouldn’t approve of the relationship.
In order to force their families to accept their love for each other, Maggie and Lane elope, but their days of wedded bliss are numbered when Japan attacks Pearl Harbor. Suddenly, a difficult romance becomes impossible as Japanese families are herded like cattle and sent to interment camps. Maggie faces impossible choices and heartbreak as her family and the world go to war.
Bridge of Scarlet Leaves taught me so much about a terrible place of the American past–the devastation of Japanese-American citizens during the Second World War. Stories from history enlivened through McMorris’s characters made them compelling and emotional. Her attention to detail and research are evident on every page but never weigh down the narrative, and just as McMorris did with her first novel, she connects the readers so tightly to her characters that one feels their heartaches and joys, troubles and triumphs.
There is a beautiful thread running through the novel that illuminates how Maggie’s talent for the violin ebbs and flows with the development of her emotional state. The violin becomes a symbol for a girl who develops into a woman, fully in possession of her power and her passion.
I finished the book in three days, but it will live in my heart much longer. I find myself thinking of the characters and the story often, and feel privileged to have been able to read it. If you enjoy bittersweet stories of love, war, and sacrifice, you will love Bridge of Scarlet Leaves.
For more on the author and her inspiration, visit Kristina’s website at http://www.kristinamcmorris.com/ or watch this video: