Book Review of The Pearl Diver

The Pearl Diver
The Pearl Diver
Author: Jeff Talarigo
Genre: Literature & Fiction
Book Type: Paperback
reviewed on + 688 more book reviews


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!