IX: Chile

elamantejapanese

When I first moved to Spain, I kept seeing El Amante Japonés (The Japanese Lover) in every bus station I went to. And in those first few weeks I went to a lot of bus stations! It was on the bestsellers list. Due to my love of sushi and origami, I was particularly intrigued by the title.

A year went by, and eventually I bought a copy. Though not from a Spanish bus station. I opted for the translated English e-book edition. I raced through the book during breaks at work. I possibly wouldn’t have heard about Isabel Allende, if I hadn’t been living in Spain.

Without giving too much away… it is a story about migration, connection and being somehow the outsider or ‘foreign’ in the community in which you live. But it’s also about ageing and the decisions people make about their lives. Alma Belasco is the kind of older person I aspire to being like. She makes her own decisions, is fiercely independent, and doesn’t resign herself to behaving a particular way in order to match her supposed age. She lives in a residential home and the novel explores her younger years including her encounters with Ichimei, her childhood friend of Japanese descent. Throughout their lifetimes, Alma and Ichimei reunite again and again. There is a connection that remains bright, despite the social obstacles they faced during hostilities between the United States and Japan in the 1940s. Alma’s personal assistant in the residential home, Irina Bazili, is a European immigrant with a troubled family background. Together with Alma’s grandson, she gradually uncover the secrets that Alma kept so closely guarded over seven decades.

I read this the first time in English. I’m currently re-reading it in Spanish (though more at tortoise pace…).

I’m tagging this as United States because the bulk of the story takes places there, but also as Chile because the author, Isabel Allende, is Chilean.

IV: India

Trail of Broken Wings by Sejal Badani was a fascinating story that at times brought tears to my eyes. It’s quite rare that a book has that kind of impact on me. I had to actually avoid reading it on public transport at one point because it was just too hard to keep myself together.
Without giving the whole story away, basically it’s about a photographer that hasn’t been in touch with her family for some years. But when her father falls into a coma she reluctantly returns to the family. She has changed, and her family have also changed. There are some really dark secrets that come to light and a history of violence that comes to the surface. Even though it wasn’t an easy read, it was a really interesting exploration of how cultures interact and how cultures change from one generation to the next. But I found the ending to be a bit of a disappointment to be honest *spoiler alert* because she seemed to still believe that she needs somebody to “fix” her, which is somehow beautiful but ultimately disempowering. Though possibly more realistic.
Below is a quote I fell in love with in this book:
“Everyone must reach a point in their life when they stop running. When it is easier to stand still than to keep being chased, even if the person chasing you is only in your head.”