Pull Me Under by Kelly Luce

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Pull Me Under by Kelly Luce
Published by: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York
Published: November 1, 2016
ISBN-10: 0374238588
Hardcover – 272 Pages

Rating:  ***** (5)

About the Author:   (From Amazon.com) Kelly Luce is the author of the short-story collection Three Scenarios in Which Hana Sasaki Grows a Tail, which won Foreword Reviews‘s 2013 Editor’s Choice Prize for Fiction.

A native of Illinois, she holds a degree in cognitive science from Northwestern University and an MFA from the Michener Center for Writers at the University of Texas at Austin. She is a fellow at Harvard’s Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study and a contributing editor for Electric Literature. She lives in California’s Santa Cruz Mountains.

Right off the bat this book pulled me in…. Nevermind under.  Actually, I feel as if I’m missing something since I don’t really understand the connection between the title and the story — if you know and figured it out, please share it with me.

Let’s talk about the cover, shall we?  Amazing cover designed by Abby Kagan.  To me it speaks of the many faces we all present.

Some people show the same face to everyone; others, lime my father, are gemstones, constantly turning to display the most advantageous façade

The book follows a woman, Rio, as she tells us the story of how she arrived in America and under what circumstances.  Her story is one of pain and feeling of not belonging.  I think most of us can relate to this feeling at one time or another in our lives.  What’s different about Rio, is how she handled herself when faced with those feelings.

We meet Rio when she was still Chizuro Akitani, a hafu (half person) while living in Japan.  The daughter of a prominent Japanese violinist and an Irish mother.  We meet Chizuro at the age of twelve when she was a student and being bullied at school.  We all know that pre-teen years and teen years are probably the most difficult.  Tomoya Yu, one of the boys at school chose Chizuro to be his “victim” and bullied her incessantly.  The bullying took the form of name calling, touching, and eventually, pranks which caused physical pain.  That last time was the straw that broke the camel’s back and when Chizuro reached a tipping point.  She stabbed Tomoya Yu with a Moritomo letter opener which she took from her beloved English teacher’s drawer.

She was incarcerated at the Kawano Juvenile Recovery Center and from the age of Twelve through the age of twenty one, she was property of the state.  Her life at Kawano felt more normal to her.  She was still a “half person” but there, the names were different and others living at Kawano had other issues they were dealing with and her being a hafu was not what made her stand out.  At Kawano, she was more like the others.  She sort of blended.

blending in is a necessity just like shelter or food.  The biggest thing wrong with me was my mixed blood

At the age of twenty one, Chizuro was able to leave Kawano and became Rio, and flees to America where she applied for and was accepted to college and lived her life as an American in Colorado.  There she met her now husband and they had one daughter and everything was going well, actually great, it seemed.  Until the time she learned of her father’s death and went back to Japan.  At her father’s funeral she connected with her old English teach, a woman from New Zealand, who was always her protector.  Her trip to Japan, after twenty years of living in America, was like a dream where she was forced to face all the demons of her childhood.

Kelly Luce’s writing puts the read in Japan, along with Rio.  I was able to feel her anxiety and was unable to stop reading at times, other times I felt compelled to put the book down and take a breath.  For chapter after chapter I felt as if I were holding my breath and waiting to turn the next corner.  Along with Rio the reader is forced to take in moments in life when we, too, must present different personas in order to survive, be accepted by others and ourselves.

The characters came to life throughout the books and, although at times I was unable to understand Rio’s thinking I felt compelled to sympathize with her.  When faced with a cross roads, she didn’t always take the “right” path but for her it was all she was able to see.

I read this book in one day, which is really rare for me.  All through my reading I found passages that could have come right out of anyone’s diary.  What do I do when faced with a request from a friend and there is no right or wrong path to take.  The old “damn if you do and damned if you don’t” type of scenario.

How do we forgive, when there is so much hurt?  As human beings we are selfish but why?  are we selfish out of survival or are we just selfish because that’s just who we are? Most of us are self centered the same way that Rio was, which was the reason she was not able to see the reason why things were happening around her.  Sometimes due to her blind selfishness she was unable to see the pain in others.  She ran away from what?  herself or others.  The book explored all the deep feelings which cause us to do the things we do and think the thoughts we think.

I gave it 5 out of 5 stars.  I enjoyed every minute of it and was even a little sad when it ended.  I usually pick up another book and start reading and this time I was unable to do that.  I am still afraid the next read is not going to measure up…. unfair to the next author, I know, but…. Let’s give it a shot.

Until my next review.  Happy Reading!

Ana

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