printed copy

Bridge Of Scarlet Leaves

Kristina McMorris

ISBN 9780758246851
Publish Date 2/28/2012
Format Trade Paperback
Categories Kensington, Women's Fiction, General

In this poignant and evocative novel by acclaimed author Kristina McMorris, a country is plunged into conflict and suspicion—forcing a young woman to find her place in a volatile world.

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.

Skillfully capturing one of the most controversial episodes in recent American history, Kristina McMorris draws readers into a novel filled with triumphs and heartbreaking loss—an authentic, moving testament to love, forgiveness, and the enduring music of the human spirit.

"Impeccably researched and beautifully written.” --Karen White, New York Times bestselling author

Chapter One

November 1941

Los Angeles, California

At the sound of her brother’s voice, flutters of joy turned to panic in Maddie Kern. “Cripes,” she whispered, perched on her vanity seat. “What’s he doing home?”

Jo Allister, her closest girlfriend and trusted lookout, cracked open the bedroom door. She peeked into the hall as TJ hollered again from downstairs.

“Maddie! You here?”

It was six o’clock on a Friday. He should have been at his campus job all night. If he knew who was about to pick her up for a date . . .

She didn’t want to imagine what he would do.

Maddie scanned the room, seeking a solution amidst her tidy collection of belongings—framed family photos on the bureau, her posters of the New York Symphony, of Verdi’s Aida at the Philharmonic. But even her violin case, which she’d defended from years of dings and scratches, seemed to shake its head from the corner and say, Six months of sneaking around and you’re surprised this would happen?

Jo closed the door without a click and pressed her back against the knob. “Want me to keep him out?” Her pale lips angled with mischief. Despite the full look of her figure, thanks to her baggy hardware store uniform, she was no match for TJ’s strength. Only his stubbornness.

“My brother seeing me isn’t the problem,” Maddie reminded her. She glanced at the clock on her nightstand, and found cause for remaining calm. “Lane shouldn’t be here for another twelve minutes. If I can just—”

The faint sound of an engine drove through the thought and parked on her words. Had he shown up early? She raced to the window, where she swatted away her childhood drapes. She threw the pane upward and craned her neck. Around the abandoned remains of her father’s Ford, she made out a wedge of the street. No sign of Lane’s car. She still had time.

“Hey, Rapunzel,” Jo said. “You haven’t turned batty enough to scale walls for a fella, have you?”

Maddie shushed her, interrupted by creaks of footfalls on the staircase. “You have to do it,” she decided.

“Do what?”

Warn Lane, Maddie was about to say, but realized she needed to talk to him herself, in order to set plans to meet later that night. Come tomorrow, he’d be on a train back to Stanford.

She amended her reply. “You’ve got to distract TJ for me.”

Jo let out a sharp laugh. Pushing out her chest, she tossed back stragglers from her ash-brown ponytail. “What, with all my stylish locks and hefty bosom?” Then she muttered, “Although, based on his past girlfriends, I suppose that’s all it would take.”

“No, I mean—you both love baseball. Chat about that.”

Jo raised a brow at her.

“Please,” Maddie begged. “You came by to help me get ready, didn’t you? So, help me.”

“Why not just tell him and get it over with?”

“Because you know how he feels about my dating.” A distraction from her future, he called it. The same theory he applied to his own career.

“Maddie. This isn’t just about any guy.”

“I know, I know, and I’ll come clean. But not yet.”

A knuckle-rap sounded on her door. “You in there?”

She sang out, “Hold on a minute,” and met Jo’s eyes. “Please.”

Jo hesitated before releasing a sigh that said Maddie would owe her one. A big one.

“I’ll come right back,” Maddie promised, “once I head Lane off down the block.”

After a grumble, Jo pasted on a smile, wide enough for a dentist’s exam, and flung open the door. “TJ,” she exclaimed, “how ’bout that streak of DiMaggio’s, huh?”

Behind his umber bangs, his forehead creased in puzzlement. “Uh, yeah. That was . . . somethin’.” His hand hung from a loop of his cuffed jeans. Nearly four years of wash and wear had frayed the patch on his USC Baseball sweatshirt. Its vibrancy had long ago faded, just like TJ’s.

Diverting from Jo’s unsubtle approach, Maddie asked him, “Didn’t you have to work tonight?”

“I was supposed to, but Jimmy needed to switch shifts this weekend.” His cobalt gaze suddenly narrowed and gripped hers.

“You going somewhere special?”

“What?” She softly cleared her throat before thinking to glance down at her flared navy dress, her matching strappy heels. She recalled the pin curls in her auburn, shoulder-length do. The ensemble didn’t spell out a casual trip to a picture show.

Jo swiftly interjected, “There’s a new hot jazz band playing at the Dunbar. They say Duke Ellington and Billie Holiday might even be there. I’m dragging Maddie along. A keen study in music. You know, for her big audition.”

“I thought you were practicing tonight,” he said to Maddie.

“I am—I will. After we get back.”

“You two going alone?”

“We’ll be fine.” As everything would be, if he’d let up long enough.

“All right,” he said, rubbing the back of his neck. “I’ll just grab a bite in the kitchen then come along.”

Maddie stifled a gasp. “No, really. You don’t have to.”

“At the Dunbar? Oh yeah I do.”

Criminy. Was he going to hold her hand as they crossed the street to reach the bus stop too?

“TJ, this is ridiculous. I’m nineteen years old. Dad used to let us go out all the—”

He lashed back with a fistful of words. “Well, Dad’s gone, and I’m not him. You don’t like the deal, you can stay home.”

Stunned, Maddie stared at him. He’d spoken the word gone as though their father had died along with their mother.

Jo waved her hands, shooing away the tension. “So it’s settled. We’ll all go together.” Maddie widened her eyes as Jo continued, “And hey, while he’s eating, you’ll have time to drop off your neighbor’s letter. The one the postman delivered by accident.”

The letter . . .?

Confusion quickly gave way to disappointment. Maddie now had an excuse to sneak out, but only to cancel rather than delay her date with Lane. She hated the prospect of missing one of his rare visits from school.

On the upside, in two weeks he would be back for winter break, offering more opportunities for quality time together.

“Fine, then,” she snipped at her brother. “Come if you want.”

What other choice did she have?

While Jo bombarded TJ with questions about the World Series, Maddie strode down the hall. Her urge to sprint mounted as she recalled the time. She made it as far as the bottom step when the doorbell rang.

Oh, God.

“I’ll get it!” She rushed to the entry. Hoping to prevent the disaster from worsening, she opened the door only halfway. Yet at the greeting of Lane’s perfect white smile, all her worries evaporated like mist. The warm glow of the portico light caressed his short black hair and olive skin. Shadows swooped softly from his high cheekbones. His almond-shaped eyes, inherited from his Japanese ancestors, shone with the same deep brown that had reached out and captured her heart the first time he’d held her last spring, an innocent embrace that had spiraled into more.

“Hi, Maddie,” he said, and handed her a bouquet of lavender lilies. Their aroma was divine, nearly hypnotic, just like his voice.

But then footsteps on the stairs behind her sobered her senses.

“You have to go,” was all she got out before TJ called to him.

“Tomo!” It was the nickname he’d given Lane Moritomo when they were kids. “You didn’t tell me you were coming home.”

The startle in Lane’s eyes deftly vanished as his best friend approached.

Maddie edged herself aside. Her heart thudded in the drum of her chest as she watched Lane greet him with a swift hug. A genuine grin lit TJ’s face, a rare glimpse of the brother she missed.

“I’m only in till tomorrow,” Lane told him. “Then it’s straight back for classes.” Though several inches shorter than TJ, he emitted a power in his presence, highlighted by his tailored black suit.

“Term’s almost over,” TJ remarked. “What brought you back?”

“There was a funeral this afternoon. Had to go with my family.”

Surprisingly, TJ’s expression didn’t tense at the grim topic. Then again, Lane always did have the ability—even after the accident— to settle him when no one else could. “Anyone I know?”

“No, no. Just the old geezer who ran the bank before my dad. Came away with some nice flowers at least.” Lane gestured to the lilies Maddie had forgotten were in her grip. “Priest said they didn’t have space for them all.”

TJ brushed over the gift with a mere glance. “I was gonna take the girls to some jazz joint. Any chance you wanna come?”

“Sure. I’d love to,” he said, not catching the objection in Maddie’s face.

Her gaze darted to the top of the staircase, seeking help. There, she found Jo leaning against the rail with a look that said, Ah, well, things could be worse.

And she was right. Before the night was over, things could get much, much worse.

Discussion Questions

1. The title Bridge of Scarlet Leaves was inspired by an ancient haiku. Describe the symbolism of leaves in the story and possible reasons they would be scarlet. What thoughts and/or emotions did the opening poem (by Deanna Nikaido) evoke both before and after you read the book? 2. Bridge conveys a variety of meanings in McMorris’s novel, many of which relate to connecting hearts, people, and cultures. How did each major character fulfill the role of a bridge? Who or what do you view as the most significant bridge in the story?

3. In the 1940s, interracial marriage was illegal in more than thirty American states. Given expectations placed on Caucasian females during this conservative era, how do you feel about Maddie’s hesitation early in her relationship with Lane? Would you have made the same daring choices that she did over the course of the war?

4. Several of the characters’ lives often parallel throughout the story. Discuss such instances found in TJ’s military training and tour, Lane’s and Maddie’s Manzanar experiences, Mrs. Duchovny’s tragedy, and Dopey’s assignment to the POW camp.

5. While working at the camo-net factory, Lane ponders the irony: “Here they were, unjustly imprisoned by their own country, contributing to the fight for freedom and democracy.” In Lane’s situation, would you have enlisted in the U.S. military? If drafted, would you have refused to serve?

6. Japanese honor is a major element in the book, as exemplified by Lane’s confrontation with the so¯ cho¯ , Happy’s ceremonial sacrifice, and the Japanese Americans’ general compliance to evacuate. One could say it’s a privilege lost by standing out from the group. Discuss how the concept of honor—as a burden versus a reward—contrasts between the Japanese and American cultures.

7. The final scene of Maddie sitting at her vanity creates an echo of the book’s opening scene, her reflection having vastly changed. In fact, every character experienced a tremendous amount of growth. Of them all, who do you believe transformed the most? Whose journey was your favorite?

8. A great number of historical facts and events, along with cultural tidbits, are woven through the pages. What was the most surprising or intriguing piece of information you learned?

9. Translations of the names Suzume and Orochi are included in the story. Other names that bear meaning are: Tomo (“friend”), Takeshi (“warrior”), Kumiko (“longtime beautiful child”), Nobu (“faith”), and Kensho (“self-realization, awakening”). To what extent do these names fit the characters?

10. Often the key to empathy lies in uncovering traumatic events that have shaped another person’s life. Did your impression of Kumiko change once she revealed her past? Have you ever encountered a similar situation in which a discovery altered your perspective of a person?

11. At what point in the story do you believe Lane and Maddie’s relationship truly became love? Do you believe Maddie regrets her choices? Reflecting on your own life, if you had foreseen the path ahead, would you have made the same decisions? Are you glad you didn’t know beforehand?

12. In writing, Lane explains to Maddie that he had asked Dewey to throw away a previous letter. How do you think the discarded message differed from the one Lane ultimately sent?

13. Do you wish the story had ended differently for any of the characters? If so, how would that have affected the growth of the others? How do you feel about Dopey’s decision after the war? Do you agree with Maddie’s choice of placing a keepsake on the floating lantern?

14. Adhering to Kumiko’s superstitions, the book is divided into seven parts to incite good fortune, just as the following bonus question effectively prevents this list from ending on #13: Which two minor characters from McMorris’s debut novel, Letters from Home, make a cameo in Bridge of Scarlet Leaves?

About Kristina McMorris:

Kristina McMorris is an award-winning author and graduate of Pepperdine University. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and two sons. Letters from Home is her first novel.


Average Customer Review

Based on 4 reviews


Customer Review

Love prevails over everything! (Saturday, May 26, 2012)
Reviewer: Kathy Jund

In a heart wrenching and emotionally charged story, Kristin McMorris brings us a full circle glimpse at the intertwined lives of two families, one Caucasian and the other affluent Japanese American living in Los Angeles who find themselves torn by the events of internment during the tragedy of World War II. If this story does not find you brought to tears I do not know what will. During simpler times, Los Angeles in the fall of 1941 where neighbors all know each other and children of all ethnicities played together, the bond of friendship that started in childhood between TJ Kern and Lane Moritomo was not an alliance that would raise suspicion. Now, both young men head for the success in life promised by the hard work their studies in college would bring them. TJ as a pro baseball player, who currently pitcher on the varsity team at USC and Lane Moritomo his best friend, enrolled in college at Stanford; where Lane’s political aspirations hold promise he will be rewarded with an internship with a California Congressman who values his forward thinking ideas. However, the unforeseen factor in TJ’s life as unspoken head of the household (through makings not under his control), is his younger sister Maddie. Maddie, who at nineteen, gifted with the talent that holds promise of becoming a concert violinist in the symphony (if only she can obtain a scholarship to Julliard), centers TJ’s focus to ensure nothing will distract her from achieving this lofty goal. Nevertheless, fate has a way of interceding in all plans as Maddie and Lane have fallen in love and finds them hard pressed to keep their secret from everyone, including TJ. A spontaneous act of defiance against tradition turns into a pivotal life-altering event as the word spreads of the recent attack on Pearl Harbor. The answering actions befalling the country result in the rendering of the hard forged friendship between the two friends who once thought each other as brothers, thrusting Maddie into the position of having to chose between the two men that matter most to her. Will it ever be possible to mend the rift that now looms over them all, and if so at what cost?

A lesson in love and history (Tuesday, April 24, 2012)
Reviewer: Stacey Pagan

Meet siblings Maddie and TJ Kern – two teenagers struggling to survive since their mother’s passing and their father had a psychotic break. TJ is playing baseball in college and Maddie helps at the alternations shop the family owns, while practicing the violin to get into Julliard. TJ’s best friend, Japanese-American Lane, is away at college. Maddie and Lane have fallen in love, but have kept it a secret from big brother TJ. Lastly, there is Jo, Maddie’s best friend, the keeper of the hardware store, harboring a crush on TJ. . .

It’s November, 1941. . . just a month before the four characters lives are changed forever. McMorris sets up the beginning of the novel nicely, showing the flame that is glowing between Maddie and Lane and the anger TJ faces daily due to the loss of their mother. The reader is shown the best friend relationship between TJ and Lane, never taking into consideration that Lane is a Japanese-American, but just his best pal. They are happy young adults, ready to start their lives in the world. . .

Maddie and Lane secretly marry. Their first night together was heaven; however, that shatters the next day with the bombing of Pearl Habor. . . and everything changes.

Lane’s family leaves, in hopes of avoiding the Japanese Internment Camps in Manzanar, CA. However, during this difficult war time, that doesn’t last long. TJ enlists. Maddie is left at home, still practicing to get into Julliard, spending her time with Jo, hoping to hear from Lane and praying daily for TJ’s safe return.

This story is a story of love, heartbreak, loss forgiving and learning to live again. McMorris has done an excellent job researching the history of Pearl Harbor, WWII and all that history that went along with it! She has written a story that made me laugh along with the characters, yet I also cried for them as well.

Sit back and enjoy your lesson in history while you watch this story unfold.

heritage (Monday, April 16, 2012)
Reviewer: jbarr

BRIDGE OF SCARLET LEAVES by Kristina McMorris
Really enjoyed all the learning in this book. Starts out with a brother and sister(TJ and Maddie) who each have a friend (jo and Lane). The male friend (Lane) is Japanese and he has fallen in love with Maddie. <P>
Back in the 1940's marriage between two different racial groups was taboo, but they went and got married anyways hiding it for a while from others. The day they returned to their home town from their honeymoon was the day that Japan bombarded Hawaii at Pearl Harbor. <P>
From there the book follows each of the four as they struggle to get through the hard times of their lives and how they strive to get it all back together
once. This book takes you all over the world and I really liked how you could feel you were there with the descriptions of the surroundings and what was going through each of their minds. <P>
TJ is the baseball pitcher and his best friend is Lane til TJ finds out Lanes's married his sister. <P>
Maddie is a violist and has scholarships to pay her way at the Juilliard School of Music in NY but plans change. <P>
Her best friend Jo sticks by her in good and hard times and plays for the womans' baseball league during the war. <P>
Lane is torn between camps, the war, his Japanese heritage and loving his American wife.
War, food rations, birth, death, POW and farming bring this book together ending with an explanation of the stars in the sky that two are looking at from different places in the world. <P>
Love the Japan inspired recipes at the end also. Found myself wanting this book to continue on as I didn't want it to end.

Stunning! (Monday, March 26, 2012)
Reviewer: Amy Lignor

As she did with Letters From Home, Kristina McMorris has once again written a story of passion, trials, friendship, family and beauty that will stay with the reader for a very long time to come.

Maddie Kern is a good girl. This nineteen-year-old has been through a lot of stress, losing her mother and having her father holed up in an institution because he simply refuses to speak to anyone - wrapped up in a past that he simply can’t escape from. Maddie’s biggest goal in life is to play her violin at the Julliard School, which she has auditioned for already, but this time she has her best chance of getting accepted.

Maddie is taken care of by her older brother, T.J., who is even more strict than her father was. T.J. loves tow things - baseball and his sister - and wants to protect Maddie from the world. But what he doesn’t know is his best friend that he calls Tomo has secretly been dating Maddie for months, and when T.J. finds out about it, he is more than unhappy.

Tomo’s real name is Lane and he comes from a very wealthy Japanese family. His father is huge in the banking industry, and he is also very into the ‘old ways.’ He tells his son that the ‘matchmaker’ back in their native land has found a wife for him and she will be coming over very soon to meet her future husband. Lane has no idea how to tell his family that he has chosen Maddie for life and has no interest in a Japanese bride. Of course, before the families have much to say, Pearl Harbor is attacked, and more than one War begins.

Readers will run through life with Maddie and Lane as they try their very best to survive the bigotry and hatred that has cropped up in America against the Japanese, not to mention Maddie’s brother who has gone overseas to fight the enemy that was once his friend. Each and every page is breathtaking. Watching Maddie and Lane try to fight against all odds, while witnessing T.J. as he struggles to give up his childhood dream and finds himself in a prison that he may just never get out of unless his ‘friend turned enemy’ can save him, makes for a stunning plot.

The story is filled with laughter, tears and sheer beauty. All I can say is Kristina McMorris has once again written the ultimate epic that will appeal to readers of adventure, romance, drama, suspense and history. A true masterpiece!

Until Next Time,
Amy


Write a Review