Title: Bridge of Scarlet Leaves
Author: Kristina McMorris
Genre: Historical fiction
Publisher: Kensington Books
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Source: Review copy from the publisher
First line: At the sound of her brother’s voice, flutters of joy turned to panic in Maddie Kern.
Goodreads blurb: Los Angeles, 1941. Violinist Maddie Kern’s life seemed destined to unfold with the predictable elegance of a Bach concerto. Then she fell in love with Lane Moritomo. Her brother’s best friend, Lane is the handsome, ambitious son of Japanese immigrants. Maddie was prepared for disapproval from their families, but when Pearl Harbor is bombed the day after she and Lane elope, the full force of their decision becomes apparent. In the eyes of a fearful nation, Lane is no longer just an outsider, but an enemy.
When her husband is interned at a war relocation camp, Maddie follows, sacrificing her Juilliard ambitions. Behind barbed wire, tension simmers and the line between patriot and traitor blurs. As Maddie strives for the hard-won acceptance of her new family, Lane risks everything to prove his allegiance to America, at tremendous cost.
Shortly after seeing a couple of rave reviews about Bridge of Scarlet Leaves, I was offered a review copy. Most of you know that, at the beginning of the year, I made a goal to not accept very many review copies this year. I did really well during the TBR Double Dare, but my resolve wavered after it was over – and after I kept getting offered books like this one, books that tempt me right where my love of historical fiction (especially World War II fiction) lives. And while not ever review copy I have accepted has been a winner, I am so very glad I didn’t turn this one down.
Can you imagine the situation in which Maddie and Lane find themselves? They are deeply in love, but know that they will face opposition from both of their families because Maddie is white and Lane is Japanese. So they decide to elope, figuring that everyone else will just have to accept their decision. But the morning after their wedding, Japan attacks Pearl Harbor, and they are now faced with prejudice and hatred they could never have imagined.
Bridge of Scarlet Leaves follows Lane and Maddie and Maddie’s brother TJ through the years of the war. Kristina McMorris paints a vivid picture of what life was like for an American woman married to a Japanese-American man – and that picture made me so ashamed of this period in our history. I loved the fact that Maddie didn’t let the racism and prejudice she faced keep her from being true to her love for her husband. She is a terrific character, one whose fight and loyalty won me over.
McMorris takes her readers from the internment camps to the bloody island battlefields of the Pacific Theater, and every word was perfectly placed to completely immerse the reader in the experience. This is a beautiful, heartbreaking, and lovely book, and one that reminds me why I love historical fiction so much.