“You must not remain anchored to the past and frightened by the future. You have only one life, but if you live well, it is enough. ” 

This bit of advice is given to a character in Isabel Allende’s latest novel, and it is also the advice given to those who read The Japanese Lover.

In 1939, Poland fell under Nazi rule, and Alma Mendel’s parents sent her to live with her aunt and uncle in San Francisco. As she grows up away from her home and the world descends into war, she meets Ichimei Fukuda, the youngest son of a Japanese gardener.
The two develop a deep friendship but are pulled apart when Ichimei’s family is forced to leave California for a Japanese internment camp. From here on out, Alma and Ichimei come and go from each other’s lives, with their intense love for each other always finding a way to reunite them.

As Alma nears the end of her life, she moves to the Lark House, an idyllic retirement home in San Francisco, and years later, she meets Irina Bazili, a young woman working as a caretaker at the house. Irina moved from her small village from Moldova to Dallas, only to keep on moving, running from a hidden past. However, at the Lark House, Irina finds a place where she can stay put, a job she excels at, and in Alma, she finds a relationship that she can rely on.
Alma’s grandson, Seth, and Irina also become friends, and they both uncover letters sent to Alma by Ichimei, and the two set out to discover more about this hidden past. As Irina sheds light onto Alma’s life, she learns how to deal with her own problems and her own past in order to lead a happy life.

Allende champions an epic love story and weaves in and out of decades to piece together the story of Alma and Ichimei.
She touches on various issues that her characters face, from race and sexuality, to simply trying to make the most out of life.

By placing the story at the Lark House, Allende sets up readers to be confronted with the end of life, what it means to have lived well and to have been happy, all wrapped up around a love that lasted for over seventy years.

Buy the book here.

About the Author Isabel Allende

Isabel Allende
Isabel Allende

Isabel Allende is a Chilean author, who has over twenty written works. Among her most famous works is The House of the Spirits. Her books have been translated from their original Spanish to over 35 different languages and constantly feature historical events. Allende worked as a journalist in Chile until her family was exiled, and she now lives in California.

Anahita Padmanabhan

Anahita Padmanabhan

Content Writer at NY Literary Magazine
Anahita is a rising senior at Emerson College, where she is majoring in Journalism and minoring in Political Science.
She is an avid reader, and never leaves for a trip without her kindle and a couple of books. She currently writes for her school's entertainment magazine and Flawless Mag.
Anahita Padmanabhan