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Extended Audio Sample The Pearl Diver, by Jeff Talarigo Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (842 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Jeff Talarigo Narrator: Jennifer Iked Publisher: Recorded Books, LLC Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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This lyrical novel sweeps listeners away to an ignoble period from Japanese history, when lives were shattered by intolerance—and for one group of societal outcasts, survival hinged on the determination of the human spirit. In 1948, a 19-year-old pearl diver with leprosy is forced to erase her name from family records and move to an island leprosarium. Mere miles from the home she can never return to, she must accept that her life will never be the same. Download and start listening now!


Quotes & Awards

  • “One of the most honest, tender, and inventive books I've read in years. Talarigo never steps out of culture, out of voice, out of place; and yet this is a universal story, one of love, one of neglect, one of shame…He can find redemption even in the narrowest corridors of the human spirit.” 

    Colum McCann, author of Dancer

  • "Absorbing and original. Talarigo has managed to create a tone and mood that are themselves expressions of a time and a place and a people. The resulting light radiates outward from one small society in postwar Japan—across the waters and the years—to where the reader sits, still deeply immersed after the last page has been turned." 

    John Burnham Schwartz, author of Reservation Road

  • “Quietly powerful…This is a lyrically told tale of ugliness redeemed and lives changed by small acts with large consequences.”

    Liza Dalby, author of Gisha

  • “Drawing from actual medical history, Talarigo succeeds in telling a compelling story whose strength is its elegant simplicity.”

    Publishers Weekly

  • “An unforgettable, achingly sad novel.”


  • “Hypnotic…Talarigo’s prose is as evocative as a Hokusai woodcut.”

    Los Angeles Times

  • “Luminous…Everything looks magical through [Talarigo’s] lens.”

    Baltimore Sun

  • “Transformative…Explores the question of what a person becomes after having been stripped of everything: name, family and function, privacy and freedom. Talarigo’s answer seems to be that we are saved not by what we are but by who we are, the part of us that exists within the flesh, that is capable of transcendence.”

    San Francisco Chronicle

  • “At once exquisite and horrifying, a piece of delicacy forged out of pain and the struggle against numbness…There is no denying the loveliness of this book…In Miss Fuji, [Talarigo] has given us a genuine hero.”

    Minneapolis Star-Tribune

Listener Opinions

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 by Marnie | 2/17/2014

    " Read it in two days - GREAT book! "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 by Sue | 2/16/2014

    " To be a leprosy patient in 1940s Japan meant to be a societal outcast, quarantined on an island leprosarium with others afflicted with the disease. Jeff Talarigo gives a voice to Miss Fuji, Mr. Shitayama, Miss Min, Mr. Nagame, and his other characters; the voice that their society had long denied them. Thru a series of anecdotes, each introduced by the description of a catalogued artifact from the leprosarium, we glimpse their daily lives, experience the strength of human spirit that triumphs in this grim place, and see how advances in medicine and changes in social attitudes very slowly and gradually improve their lot, thru the decades of the 1950s thru the 1980s. For the Audio Book, Jennifer Ikeda speaks wonderfully as Miss Fuji, the young pearl diver of the book's title, who is brought to the island in 1948 at age nineteen, and who learns important lessons about living the truth, community, and solidarity. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 by Cathy Aquila | 2/11/2014

    " 3 1/2 stars - The history of the treatment of leprosy in Japan is fascinating. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by DaNette | 2/8/2014

    " I enjoyed this book about a young girl who is diagnosed with leprosy and is forced to live in a sanatorium. Her ability to cope with this forced imprisonment and to find meaning and pleasure in her life are discovered in this thoughtful book. A good read because it's different and approaches the main character's situation thoughtfully and realistically. Good enough to pick up. "

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About the Author

Jeff Talarigo received the American Academy of Arts and Letters’ Rosenthal Award for The Pearl Diver. He is currently a fellow at the New York Public Library’s Cullman Centre for Scholars and Writers and lives in New York City.