Touching story of a teen Pearl Diver who contracts leprosy in 1940's Japan and her life through the years living in a leprosarium. Told through a series of mementos and memoirs, this is different from any other story about leprosy I've read. If you like this book, also try Moloka'i by Alan Brennert
This was a haunting and well research book.
A young teen is a pearl diver, a tom boy of a family that is hard working. She goes out each day with the divers, older than she.
One day she notices a spot on her arm that is numb. Later she has one on her back.
The spot on her arm gets cut during a dive and she never notices until she sees the blood.
She goes to the doctor eventually, and finds out she has leprosy. This is a dreaded disease and the ones who have it are condemned to a horrid life, they are disowned by family and friends.
She runs away but it found in a abandoned shed. She is forced to go to a leprosarium, and the indignatiies gave out there is worse than the disease.
She eventually find friends among the lepers, some in horrible shape, and nurses the sick ones.
She takes turns at night watching for rats to come and eat off fingers and toes, and sometimes the late night love fest of others that have married on the island.
She is force to work in the abortion area, where babies are aborted late term.
They give a trial drug to those qalifiying and it halts the progress of the disease but infections from needles become a problem.
She can leave, only if she already has a job on the outside.
But the stigma of the leper is such it will shut down businesses frequented by them, even if not marred.
She eventually dies on the island but make a impact on others and does have a full life.
Very sad and well researched, i recommend this book.
I received this book as an ARC when I worked at a book store. It sat around my house for a bit before I picked it up. It is one of the best books I have ever read in my entire life. It is so touching and realistic. It makes you feel as if you are on the island with them. I made it a point to loan it out to all of my friends. I even ordered a few on Amazon to ship to people. Strongly recommend.
This is both a very interesting book, due to the subject matter and also a book that is beautifully written. The story takes place in post WWII Japan and is based on fact...that people with leprosy were so feared and shamed that they were removed from their families, their names changed and they had to live on an island for the rest of their lives. Although an effective medicine was found right after the WWII, the fear and shunning continued for another 40 years. The main character was a young pearl diver who was sent to that island after contracting the disease and the story is of her experiences. The author's style is spare and reminds me of the writings of ancient Asian poets. He uses a few perfectly chosen words and chosen "snapshots" of incidents in her life to paint a picture of her life. I'd recommend it highly.
Amazing, one of those books that will stay with you long after reading it. The opening brings you right into the story and makes you apart of her world.Beautiful descriptions and the flow of the story is so engaging.
Wonderful information with history and a personal connection. Hope he writes more books!
A very thought-provoking and sad story. The Pearl Diver tells the tale of a young pearl diver in 1948 Japan who contracts the dreaded disease, leprosy and is sent to a leprosarium on Nagashima Island. The story starts off relating the harsh experiences of the young pearl diver and her brutal days diving for whatever she can sell in she cold waters of the inland sea. This includes shellfish which occasionally will yield a pearl but mostly she dives for food items such as abalone. Then she notices a sore that is painless but will not heal which turns out to be leprosy. By law, she is transported to Nagashima where lepers are isolated from the general population. Her family disowns her and she must change her name at the colony. She chooses the name Miss Fuji because of a memorable trip she took with her uncle at a young age to Mount Fuji. She pretty much leads a life of isolation but finds she can actually swim to the nearby town and is eventually caught doing so by the staff administrator who thought she was trying to escape. For punishment, she is put to work as a nurse in B clinic where forced abortions are performed on anyone at the facility who becomes pregnant. This includes pregnancies by married couples where in one case an abortion was performed in the 8th month. Very sad and heart rending! Miss Fuji's leprosy is arrested by drugs and even though she and others are not a threat to others, she cannot leave the colony. The novel tells her story from a young age to her old age in the 1980s.
This was at times a very emotional read ranging from cruelty to compassion and raises the question of what we become if we are stripped of our name, family, and profession. A really strong novel!