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The Pearl Diver

3.72  ·  Rating Details ·  1,302 Ratings  ·  221 Reviews
In 1948, a nineteen-year-old pearl diver's dreams of spending her life combing the waters of Japan’s Inland Sea are shattered when she discovers she has leprosy. By law, she is exiled to an island leprosarium, where she is stripped of her dignity and instructed to forget her past. Her name is erased from her family records, and she is forced to select a new one. To the two ...more
Paperback, 256 pages
Published April 12th 2005 by Anchor (first published January 1st 2004)
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Mar 21, 2008 Tawny rated it it was amazing
Author: Jeff Talarigo
Title: The Pearl Diver
Genre: Historical fiction
Publication Info: DoubleDay. New York. 2004.
Recommended Age: 14 and up

Plot Summary: A 19-year-old Japanese girl who dives for pearls to help her family with the cost of living is diagnosed with leprosy. It is 1948, and she knows that she will be cast out of society if she is found with such a disease. She hides out in a shed by the water for a couple of days, but the local authorities find her and row her to an island leprosariu
Jun 16, 2008 Andi rated it liked it
This is the story of a 19-year old girl. She is a pearl diver in Japan. She develops leprosy and is cast out from her family, her job, and her future to an island with other lepers.

I learned a great deal about leprosy that I did not know. This book also made me think about how fear controls our actions. It made me grateful for my simple life and the freedoms I take for granted every day.

My only criticism of the book is the author's use of "Artifacts" to propel the story line. I wish he just tol
Jan 20, 2009 N. rated it liked it
Shelves: literary
People like to blame misfortune on its victims. When a sore on a young pearl diver’s arm is diagnosed as leprosy, she is chased down, declared dead, and confined to a small island populated by thousands of other patients. She stays there the rest of her life.

Miss Fuji, the pearl diver, meets her life’s trials –estrangement from her family, conflict with island administrators, personal doubt- with resignation. The treatment for the physical symptoms of her disease is available from the first mont
Jan 22, 2009 Lisa rated it it was amazing
The story is of a young woman, nineteen years of age, who is a pearl diver. Even this aspect of the story I found fascinating; the author describes very well the lifestyle of a pearl diver in the days when it was still done without special equipement. Even in the 40's, which is when this book begins, pearls were harvested in much the same way they must have been for centuries. The girl learns that she has leprosy, and the rest of the book is set in a leprosorium on an island, which has no concta ...more
Melanie Ashworth
Apr 10, 2009 Melanie Ashworth rated it it was amazing
This is now one of my favorite books ever - what a stunning story!
Sep 25, 2009 Missy rated it really liked it
I normally don't read historical fiction. I loved the cover of The Pearl Diver, so I decided to give it a try...I am so glad that I did!
The story takes place in Japan and starts out in the year 1938. You are introduced to the world of pearl diving...and a 19 year old girl who is just starting to get comfortable with pearl diving and with her co-divers. She is suddenly taken ill with leprosy, and shunned by her family and friends. She makes the journey to the island of Nagashima, where all of the
Oct 03, 2009 Scilla rated it liked it
I would have rated this book higher, except that I don't "love" books which make me cry. This is a very moving book, beginning at the end of WWII, about a young pearl diver who develops leprosy. She is taken to an island, where she is made to give herself a new name. Her family is dishonored and she no longer has contact. She works with other patients and makes friends; she is punished for swimming to the next island just to observe other people.
Mar 24, 2010 Trish rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
While the prose of this novel are excellent and the structure original, the story is one of overwhelming sadness, and I was glad when I was finished. The story is set in post-war Japan and spans 40 + decades of the life of a 19-year old pearl diver who is diagnosed with leprosy and is exiled to a leper colony on a small island not far from where she grew up (she can see her hometown island from her new home, Nagashima). She must change her name and takes on “Miss Fuji” for the island she climbed ...more
Paula Margulies
Apr 27, 2010 Paula Margulies rated it really liked it
The writing in this book was not as lyrical and haunting as it was in Jeff Talarigo's second novel, The Ginseng Hunter, but I enjoyed it just the same. A sad story filled with details about the life of a nineteen-year-old girl, a pearl diver, who is sent to the Nagashima Leprosarium when she discovers she has the disease. I liked the way Talarigo uses artifacts from the period as an introductory device for each chapter. A solid read; readers who liked Molokai and The Colony will enjoy this book.
Jan 20, 2011 zespri rated it it was amazing
This is a beautiful little book, and I loved it. The story begins with a young pearl diver in Japan in the 1940's, she loves the diving, the sea and everything about her chosen career. But it is all stripped from her when she discovers she has leprosy, and she is taken from all that she knows and loves and is put into isolation on an island for leprosy patients. She is told to forget her past life, it is now dead to her, and her life begins the day she sets foot in the leprosarium.

Though physica
Apr 18, 2012 katymoo rated it liked it
My friend told me to read the Pearl Diver so I did.

Now I see there are THREE books all with the title The Pearl Diver.

I am wonderfing if I read the right one....

ADDENDUM: it turns out I DID NOT read the book that was recommended, so now I am trying to find the right one.... meanwhile, this one was not a waste of time!
Aug 23, 2012 Yoake rated it it was ok
Es la segunda vez que, sin esperarlo, la lepra aparece en una novela que leo sobre Japón. El título de esta es La buscadora de perlas, pero podría haber sido El zapatero o El herrero, ya que a las cuarenta páginas el oficio de la protagonista pasa a un segundo plano y la enfermedad lo ocupa todo. Por tanto, el nombre es engañoso. Y ya puestos, yo no la consideraría una novela con todas las letras porque le falta lo fundamental: una historia.

La buscadora de perlas, la señorita Fuji (probablemente
Clif Hostetler
Jul 07, 2012 Clif Hostetler rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novel
This book is a soulful novel of acceptance and denial, written in an etherial tone that has the resonance of free form poetry. The story is permeated with a sense of melancholia, but rendered with persistent dignity. It follows the life of a young Japanese woman diagnosed with leprosy at age 19, and who is exiled to live on an island leper colony with a new identity and new name, Miss Fuji.

Soon after her arrival to the leprosarium (post WWII) modern medicines became available that stop the prog
Gary Smith
Jan 13, 2013 Gary Smith rated it really liked it
A very good, easy-going read. I thoroughly enjoyed this book.
Mar 23, 2013 jazz-ee2 rated it it was amazing
During a wintery camping trip, this book has finally come off of the pile to be read. Having so many books and so little time, I have seriously been considering skimming off the ones I didn't think I would get round to reading, and had I not been in the middle of a field in a blizzard this is likely to have been one of them. I am sooo pleased it wasn't.

This is definitely one of those books where the cover belies the beauty within. Jeff Talarigo - who I had not heard of previously - has such a wa
May 02, 2013 Shannon rated it it was amazing
Fascinating and beautifully written.
Dec 04, 2013 Colby rated it really liked it
"Your life begins here right now... Forget everything. Name and all. Wipe it from your head as if it were never there." The Pearl Diver, a historical fiction written by Jeff Talarigo, follows the life of a nineteen-year-old, Japanese, pearl diver who is exiled by law for having leprosy. She must adopt a new identity and learn to live in the leprosarium.

It was this concept that originally compelled me to read The Pearl Diver, and it was the author's portrayal of the concept that compelled me to
Dec 09, 2013 Annie rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Ginger Marcinkowski
Apr 17, 2014 Ginger Marcinkowski rated it it was amazing
I don't think I have read many books that have such layers in a rich and haunting character of Miss Fuji. The Pearl Diver by Jeff Talarigo captivated me. The author created a tender and moving story of a young woman exiled and abandoned because of leprosy. He combined the deep texture of a captivating character and a strong sense of place to evoke a deep emotional response from the reader, forcing them to experience both anger and compassion at Miss Fuji's situation. This reader sensed the autho ...more
May 05, 2014 Licha rated it liked it
More like a 2.5 for me but I feel that the story contained within is one that needs to be told so it will receive three stars.

The story started off fine, but by the last 100 pages or so I was forcing myself to finish it (and this is a short book, a little over the 200 page mark). I wasn't too fond of the style of writing the author used for this. The book was choppy, written as segments based on artifacts collected on the island of Nagashima, which was a small island off the coast of Japan wher
John Winston
Jul 03, 2014 John Winston rated it it was amazing
This is a sad, but beautiful story. Jeff Talarigo's prose is formidable and his words economical; he tells this unique story with elegant efficiency. It felt so real at times, I felt like I was reading a true story. I yearn to know more about this sympathetic heroine, Ms. Fuji. Talarigo's words are perfect. This quote from the story says it all; "Words are the most important thing we have. A few words, one word, can change history." The last sentence in the epilogue made me shudder. Read this no ...more
Sally Balboa
Aug 09, 2014 Sally Balboa rated it really liked it
The Peal Diver is not so much about plot line, as it is about the human soul. For some people a novel without a real plot line can be a tedious read, and at times this novel was but it has an ever lasting beauty in its main character Miss Fuji and the story of her life that she has to tell us.

This novel beings in the 1940's with a 19-year-old peal diver. She loves the sea and dreads when diving season is over and has to be around her family more. Before she can get to this intense level of the s
Dec 16, 2014 Karen rated it liked it
Interesting but very sad story about a 19 year old Japanese girl (who happens to be a pearl diver) that contracts leprosy and is forcibly removed from her home to the "leprosarium" on the island of Nagashima. The 240 pages just didn't develop the characters enough for me although the drama of the story was really the leprosy itself and how cruelly people were treated that were afflicted with Hansen's disease before a cure came along.
Feb 19, 2015 Linda rated it really liked it
Fascinating book about a 19 year old pearl diver in Japan in 1938 who is discovered to have leprosy and is banned to an island lepers colony for life, giving up her family, her name, and what she loved to do best, dive. Ultimately, she becomes a caretaker for others on the island who have leprosy when there is no one else to step forward to help. Vivid descriptions of the life of a pearl diver and of those in the leper colony.
Oct 07, 2015 Kelly rated it it was amazing
The sign of a good book is one that leaves me weeping openly in a public place. That's certainly what this book did for me. A 4.5 star book for me, this is a story that is deeply touching and involved. Americans rarely think of leprosariums or, as they are colloquially known as, 'leper colonies' in the modern day. It's easy to forget that not every country is at the forefront of openness and educating against the stigma of various diseases (or perceived diseases); this is something that America ...more
Oct 09, 2016 Kimberly rated it liked it
Buddy read with Andrew
Marji Morris
Dec 17, 2015 Marji Morris rated it really liked it
Shelves: historical, general
I'm not sure why I picked this book up, but I'm glad I did. It's told through a first person narrator, letting us see into life in Japan and in a leprosarium. Miss Fuji, the main character, deals matter-of-factly with her disease and the conditions on the island to which she's been exiled. The calm tone only increases the horror of the way the patients are treated. The book was well-written and worth reading.
This is such a beautiful book and story

It really shows not in,y the strength that people can have through out horrible situations but also how completely horrible and mean people can be especially to those that did nothing to deserve it.

This is a historical fiction in a way, but at the same time it doesn't not read like one nor really has the typical historical aspects. To me it seem more like a biography or historical view into a specific time and place.

This is not the easiest story to read. Mo
Sep 20, 2016 Barb rated it it was amazing
an outstanding book. I learned so much about leprosy and the japanese culture.
Oct 18, 2016 Chelsea rated it liked it
Very poetic, and a bit bittersweet. This wasn't my typical novel, but I enjoyed the writing style and reading about a topic that was foreign to me.
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messed up i mean divergent 1 16 Apr 11, 2012 11:57AM  
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“A small step forward is better than one back.” 5 likes
“Imagine that the correct words had been chosen by those people who are in charge of our lives. A few well-though-out words and things might have been different. Unfortunately, they have chosen all the wrong words.” 0 likes
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