A story that lasted for a life time for Alma Belasco, her Japanese Lover who was like air for her. She could never touch him, but can always feel him around.
The Japanese Lover by Isabel Allende is a story that revolves Alma Belasco and Ichmei Fakuda, the love of her life. As Poland falls into Nazis grip in 1939, Alma Belasco is forced to leave her country and settle down in San Francisco with her uncle and aunt. Traumatized and hurt, Alma tries to be calm and live one day at a time. Her solace comes in the form of Ichmei Fakuda, the son of family’s Japanese gardener. As the world goes to war, Alma’s world is filled with love and friendship with Ichmei. But fate plays a cruel hand again. With the bombing of Pearl Harbor by Japanese forces, Japanese all over America were sent away to intermittent camps constructed by American forces. Ichmei leaves with his family, leaving Alma devastated again. From time to time, Alma and Ichmei meet, but theirs is a love that world cannot know about.
Now, decades later, Alma is counting last days of her life in The Lark House, a nursing home in San Francisco. Irina Bazili, who is fighting her own demons of the past, befriends Alma and Seth, her grandson. As Irina and Seth forge a friendship, they are curious about the mysterious gifts and letters that arrive for Alma from time to time. Eventually, they get to know about Ichmei Fakuda, and the love story that was hidden from the family from last seventy years.
The Japanese Lover is a story that may leave you with you with a giddy feeling in your heart, a pinch of pain and admiration for the story, but something doesn’t strike when you read the book. Isabel Allende has done an excellent job in constructing a story out of World War. Each detail, from falling of Poland to Japanese concentration camps has been extensively detailed and heart wrenching. Also, the way Isabel has covered the last days of people living in retirement home is totally amazing. But even that part fails miserably in saving a would be great story.
The French nonagenarian Lothario with a penis pump and a meticulous list of the 67 women he’d loved. And she demonstrates her knack for poignant observation: “They advanced step by step towards the end, some more quickly than others, and lost everything along the way, for we cannot take anything with us to the other side of death.”
And may be, that’s what the problem is. The Japanese Lover should have been about crazy mad love of Alma and Ichmei, but at the end of the day it turns out to be a story with slow plots and demotivated characters. Like any other good story, it fails to bring out the characters to life. Something which you cannot connect to when you read it.
The Japanese lover is something that you can read, but tread lightly.