by Anne van Oorschot
On the last day of May this year, loyal members of TIC’s Book Club met to discuss our latest book, The Japanese Lover, by Isabel Allende. We were fortunate to have nice weather, which allowed us to sit outside and enjoy the peaceful spring evening.
In keeping with the theme of the book, Sondra brought Asian treats: Sake – which we warmed and had out of beautiful, white porcelain cups – and mix of wasabi rice crackers and nuts. While our back garden, does not approach the beauty of the Japanese gardens described in the book, it still helped to complete our Japanese experience. A hot air balloon even floated silently high overhead during our discussion which added to the special atmosphere!
All of us had enjoyed the book – then the conversation paused… When we got past our initial assessment and talked further about the book, it was clear there were many small details and story lines that had been introduced…but never really went anywhere. We were actually left with a lot of questions: Could Irina really enter into a relationship with Seth without going through therapy to deal with the horrors of her past? There were many different stories of religion and spirituality – what message was the author trying to pass along? Why was Alma’s brother only ‘brought back from the dead’ in 2 brief instances and their relationship not developed further? Why did Alma choose to abandon her beautiful home and comforts when she lost her lover?
The information about the internment camps that Japanese Americans were forced into during WWII was disturbing. The injustice of locking up fellow citizens based on their ethnic background and the indelible effects that resulted were profound. All of us around the table were Americans, and we agreed that little had been said in our history lessons about this dark page in America’s past. (The comparison with the present treatment of American Muslims seems too close for comfort…)
As usual, the good book resulted in an interesting discussion – which led to conversations about chicken pox and walking toddlers, a Wedding with family visits, trips to Japan and Rome, months in Milan, and how distressing that every day seems to bring incredible new low points in the constant stream of embarrassments from the US President. In short – it was a fun evening. A good close to this club year for the group.