Bridge of Scarlet Leaves

Written by Kristina McMorris
Review by Nancy J. Attwell

This wonderful World War II novel is written with a wealth of insight that, presumably, comes from the author’s own experiences growing up in a Japanese-Caucasian family. Although McMorris does not shy away from exposing the mistreatment of men, women, and children, who were guilty of nothing more than having Japanese ancestry, neither does she settle for simplistic judgments. Instead, she gently probes the complexities of human relationships.

Nineteen-year-old Maddie Kern and her older brother, TJ, who live in Los Angeles, are struggling emotionally and financially after an accident kills their mother and leaves their father in a deep depression. The siblings’ different personalities are reflected in their reactions to this tragedy: TJ loses his focus on the pitcher’s mound, which may ruin his chances of being recruited to play professional baseball; Maddie concentrates feverishly on her violin and may actually achieve her goal of being accepted into the Julliard School of Music. The relationship between the siblings becomes so strained that Maddie does not tell her brother she has fallen in love with his best friend, Lane Moritomo, the son of Japanese immigrants. On December 6, 1941, Maddie and Lane elope. The attack on Pearl Harbor, the following day, shatters the couple’s hopes for a future together. Lane attempts to protect Maddie by dissolving their marriage before he and his family are sent to an internment camp, while TJ enlists in the Air Corps as a means of escape.

The “bridge” in the title draws attention to the musical imagery that is skillfully woven into the novel, adding depth and elegance while highlighting themes of hope and forgiveness. Rich in historical detail, peopled with well-developed characters, and spiced with tension and drama, Bridge of Scarlet Leaves is a novel to savor, and then to share with a friend.