November 8

The Japanese Lover


Isabel Allende is well-known for her sweeping historical novels that cover a family and their trials and tribulations. In her most recent work, “The Japanese Lover,” Allende focuses on the lives of Alma Belasco and Irina Bazili. Spanning from 1939 to modern-day, “The Japanese Lover” not only touches on love, loss, and family but gives us brief glimpses of American history as well.

Alma is an octogenarian living at Lark House, an eccentric nursing home in San Francisco, and Irina is a care worker there who becomes Alma’s personal aide and assistant. The two women are separated by many years, but both share common parallels. Alma escaped Nazi Germany and Irina left post-Communist

Romania, but more than that, both have life-shaping secrets that they’ve kept incredibly close to their chests.

In 1939, as Poland is falling under the shadow of the Nazi regime, young Alma Belasco is shipped off to live in San Francisco with her uncle’s family. There, she meets Ichimei Fukuda, the son of the family’s Japanese gardener. The two become fast friends and share a special bond but are pulled apart when the Fukuda family, like thousands of others, are forced to live in an internment camp after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Their love withstands the test of time in secret.

While we read of Alma’s life, we also learn the story of Irina. She, too, has a troubled past that gets explained about halfway through the book. More importantly, Irina becomes friendly with Alma’s grandson, Seth, who is trying to capture the story of his grandmother’s life while she is still lucid enough to share her memories. The two become intrigued by mysterious gifts and letters that have been sent to Alma and discover the extraordinary tale of Alma and Ichimei’s love.

A grand story that travels back and forth between different time periods, generations, and continents, “The Japanese Lover” is a novel that explores identity, abandonment, redemption, and the impact of fate on our lives. Allende challenges her readers to consider how those around us impact our lives and our views on who we are. At its core, the novel remains a story of love and loss, a theme that will easily connect with many of us.

Insert Call to Action