Mystery writer Allende returns to her roots with intricate and moving story

Book Review: "The Japanese Lover" by Isabel Allende

I am so glad that after a brief period writing a murder mystery with Ripper, Isabel Allende has returned to writing about the mysteries she knows best, those of the human heart. Is it any wonder that her work has been translated into 35 languages and has sold 65 million copies worldwide?

In her latest novel (released Nov. 3), "The Japanese Lover," she explores race and identity, abandonment and reconciliation and the power of love - in all its incarnations - to transcend whatever life throws at us. And you can bet that Allende's complex characters always manage to have a lot thrown at them, as is certainly the case with Alma Balasco in this book,

Allende gracefully weaves Alma's story through past and present time, letting readers watch the unfolding mystery of her being. As a child she was sent from Poland to live with her uncle's family in San Francisco when Hitler announced his intention to "rid the world of the Jewish menace."Hers is a hard adjustment to her new life in America. It is helped in part by a close friendship she forms with the talented and gentle Ichimei Fukada, the son of the Balasco's gardener - until Ichimei and his Japanese-American family are taken away to an internment camp by the U.S. government at the start of World War II. Then the world changes for everyone and any contact between them is halted.

But this is only a bare-bones beginning of an intricate and moving story, filled with unique and memorable characters that make the novel a real page turner. Nothing here is quite as it seems and readers can count on many satisfying surprises throughout.

Reviewed by Susan Lang, Peregrine Book Company event coordinator.