Saturday, March 30, 2019

The Pearl Diver by Jeff Talarigo


Miss Fuji is the youngest pearl diver in her group. She feels at peace in the water and comes back daily with bounty from the sea. On one dive, she cuts her arm but doesn't notice the pain. She sees a spot on her skin in the same area where she got cut. She doesn't think too much of it until she finds another spot and goes to the doctor. Miss Fuji has leprosy.

In the mid 1900s Japan, those with the disease are shunned and sent to an island to live out the rest of their life. Even though Miss Fuji tries to hide, they find her and send her to this island.

The first part of the book focuses on the profession of pearl diving, which is incredibly interesting. Having recently visited the Korean island of Jeju where this practice is still in place, I really wanted to learn more. Unfortunately this part of the book ends pretty quickly and it moves right in to life on a segregated island. I was disappointed by this, but I blame myself for having incorrect expectations.

The majority of this book is about being in exile with others like Miss Fuji. She finds herself a job that is important to her and the other patients and seems to find some purpose in life. The book becomes disjointed in this part because it is separated by artifacts from the island and what they mean. It would have flowed better if told traditionally; there wasn't really much value in having these artifacts help tell the story.

Though this book wasn't bad, it really suffered because I expected a completely different story from it.

First Line: "Her words are the only remaining artifact of those days before she arrived."


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