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The Pearl Diver (edition 2004)
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0385510519, Hardcover)A first novel of rare beauty and sensitivity, Jeff Talarigo's The Pearl Diver follows the harsh fate of a 19-year-old Japanese pearl diver who is diagnosed with leprosy. It is 1948. There are trial medications for her condition, but a weight of prejudice against her. Her name is erased from the family register, and she is rowed to a lifelong exile at the island leprosarium on Nagashima. Ordered to give herself a new name, she decides on Miss Fuji, for the mountain she loves. The balance of the novel is delivered in poignant fragments that appear as notes to a modern-day anthropological study of the leprosarium. Numbered artifacts like "An old map of Honshu" and "A blank white urn" spark stories of the patients Miss Fuji has known and cared for, most of whom were much sicker than she: crippled, blinded, deformed, but all the more human for their suffering. The cruelties inflicted on the patients at Nagashima almost rival the cruelties of the disease itself. Talarigo's novel could easily succumb to sentimentality, but he maintains the poise of Miss Fuji: one who watches, who does not forgive, but who will not be lowered by vengeance or despair. --Regina Marler
(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:50:45 -0400)
"In 1948, a nineteen-year-old Japanese pearl diver is in her fourth season of perfecting the techniques of her age-old occupation. But her dreams of spending her life diving in the waters of the Inland Sea are shattered when she discovers that she has leprosy. She knows that the shame attached to the disease is inescapable: rejection by her family is imminent, exile unavoidable. No more than two months elapse before authorities send her off to a leprosarium on the island of Nagashima, and although it is only seven miles from her home, it is a world away from all that is familiar to her. At once, she is instructed to forget her past, to strike her name from the koseki, the family register, and ordered to choose a new name." "As "Miss Fuji" looks around her, she sees her own future in the debilitated bodies and the lives of more than two thousand other patients. But her "future" never comes; her own case of leprosy remains a mild one owing to the discovery of a medicine that impedes the disease's progression in its victims. Yet she is not permitted to leave Nagashima, and over time, she wonders whether she could even survive back on the mainland. In the end, it is her constant connection to the sea and her moving encounters with those around her - a writer, a Korean storyteller, a gardener, a tanka poet, an urn painter - that give her insight into her own true nature and the deep wellspring of courage she needs to reclaim her freedom."--BOOK JACKET.
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