Readers often ask for recommendations of other novels set during World War II, and I love to refer them to Kristina McMorris's books. Her first novel, Letters from Home, grabbed me, and her second novel, Bridge of Scarlet Leaves, is even better.
Before I'd read her work, Kristina and I had started exchanging research resources, and I found a kindred spirit. Her love for research spills over on every page of Bridge of Scarlet Leaves. She gets the details right without ever making it sound like a history tome.
In Bridge of Scarlet Leaves, Maddie Kern dreams of becoming a concert violinist while her brother T.J. dreams of a career in professional baseball. Unknown to T.J., Maddie has fallen in love with his lifelong best friend, Lane Moritomo, a Japanese-American. In California, interracial marriages were illegal, so the couple elopes to Seattle and gets married. On December 6, 1941.
The next day the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor. American-born Lane and his family find themselves on the wrong side of the racial divide. T.J. is infuriated that his best friend betrayed him and married his sister behind his back, and he enlists in the Army Air Forces. While Lane insists Maddie must divorce him, she chooses to follow him to the relocation camp at Manzanar.
The story takes you from Los Angeles, to the dust of Manzanar, to a B-17 bomber over Hawaii, to a banzai charge in the Aleutians, to a critical moment in the Philippines. The research is impeccable, the characters are realistically drawn and thoroughly relatable, and the story is gripping. I highly recommend this novel.
**Caution to my more sensitive readers: this is a mainstream novel and includes coarse language. There are a handful of mildly sensual scenes within a marriage and very tastefully written.
Labels: book review, Bridge of Scarlet Leaves, Kristina McMorris, World War II novel