In 1939, as Poland falls under the shadow of the Nazis and the world goes to war, young Alma Belasco's parents send her overseas to live in safety with an aunt and uncle in their opulent mansion in San Francisco. There she encounters Ichimei Fukuda, the son of the family's Japanese gardener, and between them a tender love blossoms. Following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the two are cruelly pulled apart as Ichemi and his family---like thousands of other Japanese-Americans---are declared enemies and forcibly relocated to internment camps run by the United States government. Throughout their lifetimes, Alma and Ichimei reunited again and again, but theirs is a love that they are forever forced to hide from the world.
Decades later, Alma is nearing the end of her long and eventful life. Irina Bazili, a care worker struggling to come to terms with her own troubled past, meets the elderly woman and her grandson, Seth, at San Francisco's charmingly eccentric Lark House nursing home. As Irina and Seth forge a friendship, they become intrigued by a series of mysterious letters sent to Alma, and learn about Ichimei and this extraordinary secret passion that has endured for nearly seventy years.
Sweeping through time and spanning generations and continents, The Japanese Lover explores questions of identity, abandonment, redemption, and the unknowable impact of fate on our lives. Written with the same attention to historical detail and keen understanding of her characters that Isabel Allende has been known for since her landmark first novel, The House of the Spirits, The Japanese Lover is a profoundly moving tribute to the constancy of the human heart in a world of unceasing change.