“You only have one life, but if you live it well, that’s enough. The only reality is now, today. What are you waiting for to be happy?
It’s unclear to me who needs the Japanese Lover more. Alma? Irina? He’s been dead for three years yet Alma rereads Ichimei’s letters and breathes in the sweet scent of gardenias she’s secretly sent herself, convincing herself that this love is still a living love. Alma’s class consciousness, racism and selfishness blocked her from accepting his love while he was alive. “Age doesn’t make anyone better or wiser, but only accentuates what they have always been.” Even in old age, she finds it difficult to openly reveal her secret youthful love.
The tragically damaged Irina unpacks the history of this lost love and in doing so finds she is able to love again, trust again. Did Alma send those gardenias to herself or were they the trail of breadcrumbs she left for Irina so Irina would not miss her opportunity for happiness? Maybe Alma wasn’t so selfish after all.
Trying to squeeze a story and a message about all of society’s sins – from the Holocaust to Japanese internment to child sex trafficking to repression of gay rights – into a mere 300 pages obscured both the storytelling and the message giving more than needed. Too bad because the story was a good one. #OneNightstand