From internationally bestselling author Isabel Allende comes an exquisitely crafted, multigenerational love story.
In 1939, as Poland falls under the shadow of the Nazis and the world goes to war, young Alma Belasco's parents send her overseas to live with an aunt and uncle in their opulent San Francisco mansion. There she meets Ichimei Fukuda, the son of the family's Japanese gardener, and between them a tender love blossoms, but following Pearl Harbor the two are cruelly pulled apart. Throughout their lifetimes, Alma and Ichimei reunite again and again, but theirs is a love they are forever forced to hide from the world.
Decades later, Alma is nearing the end of her long and eventful life. Irina Bazili, a care worker struggling to reconcile her own troubled past, meets the older woman and her grandson, Seth, at Lark House nursing home. As Irina and Seth forge a friendship, they become intrigued by a series of mysterious gifts and letters sent to Alma, and learn about Ichimei and this extraordinary secret passion that has endured for nearly seventy years.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
You’re in the hands of a master storyteller throughout this grand, multi-generational love story. After moving into a plush retirement home in San Francisco, the aristocratic artist Alma Belasco befriends Irina, a guarded Moldavian immigrant who works as an aide. As Irina gains her older friend’s confidence, she learns about Alma’s lifelong love affair with Ichi, the son of her family’s gardener. We also discover Irina’s heartbreaking secrets. Isabel Allende, author of the magnificent The House of the Spirits, dreams up characters you fall in love with. The Japanese Lover is a dramatic, completely absorbing novel about history, aging, resilience and trust.
Allende's (The House of Spirits) magical and sweeping tale focuses on two survivors of separation and loss: the elderly, renowned designer Alma Belasco, whose silk-screened creations fuel the family foundation, and her young secretary, mysterious Irina Bazili, who works at the progressive old people's home, Lark House, where Alma lives. Their narratives, however, go far beyond the retelling of Alma's remarkable affair with a Japanese gardener's son, Ichimei Fukuda, its heartbreaking end, and her subsequent marriage to loyal friend Nathaniel or Irina's heartbreaking struggle to break free of her haunting past. Allende sweeps these women up in the turmoil of families torn apart by WWII and ravaged by racism, poverty, horrific sexual abuse and old age, to which Allende pays eloquent attention. "There's a difference between being old and being ancient," Irina is told. "It doesn't have to do with age, but physical and mental health.... However old one is, we need a goal in our lives. It's the best cure for many ills." Befitting the unapologetically romantic soul bared here the poignant letters to Alma from Ichimei are interspersed throughout love is what endures.