Chizuru, the daughter of an American woman (Elena) and a famous Japanese musician (Hiro), is interned at the Kawano Juvenile Recovery Center at the age of 12 after murdering her schoolyard bully. Still reeling from her mother's suicide and the murder, Chizuru struggles to come to terms with her own actions and her resulting disownment from her father. At the age of 20, Chizuru is released and leaves for America, changing her name to Rio. Over the next twenty years, Rio gets a nursing degree, marries a loving man, and gives birth to a daughter, until a package announcing her father's death arrives at her doorstep. Only then does she decide to return to her homeland and face the past she's been hiding.
What I liked
- The black organ: I loved all the description that we got about Rio's black organ. When I was a kid and struggled with anger management I often felt like I had that same dark part of myself so it was shocking and surprisingly therapeutic to read about it this week. Even if it isn't necessarily something you connect with, Luce's atmospheric and moody description of Rio's inner darkness is still striking and is one of the main times that the reader can feel truly drawn to the character.
- Tam: love him. 10/10 cinnamon roll, too good for this world, too pure
- East vs West: as y'all already know, I love me some good multicultural literature. In Pull Me Under we definitely get to see a good blend of eastern and western culture, especially in our main character, who is literally a mix of the two. Sometimes this focus on the struggle between two worlds can seem drawn out or heavy handed, but I loved the fact that Luce wasn't afraid to blend in a little bout of satirical humor, specifically in her description of Elena's sins against her family in Texas, a description I felt as all too true.
- Maternity: we don't get to see a whole lot of Rio's relationship with her mother, mostly due to the formers suicide early on in the novel, but what we get is definitely beautiful. I enjoyed how this mother-daughter relationship continued with Rio and her own daughter. Elena's suicide also seemed to tie in with The Mothers which we just read, and created a nice transition.
- Controlling the Body: Rio starts the novel with a definite lack of control. She never feels like she has control over her black organ or over the torture she endured at the hands of Tomoya Yu and her resulting snap. She has no control over her parents, her weight, or her living situation. Even her first love, Tam's, transfer to another facility is beyond her control. As a response, Rio picks up running while interned at Kawano as a way to take control of the one thing she can, her body. I personally loved this as a response because I can completely understand it, and I love the fact that the readers can see Rio still at it once we are caught up with her married life in America.
What I didn't like
- Talk about the longest jacket sleeve summary ever: I know that this isn't really a complaint against the writer, but I kind of hated the fact that we get more details over what happened between Rio and Tomoya Yu on the jacket sleeve summary than we did in the first 61 pages. I know it's probably supposed to be a big mystery but still, I feel like we should have gotten more details by now. The entire first three chapters were really just what we were already told in the summary and I felt bad retyping it in the introductory post because it just seems to spoil so much. I'm not sure who was in charge of writing the summary, but I think they need lessons on brevity.
- Our Living National Treasure: is an A-hole. I Hate him. It's even more frustrating that we are given tiny snippets of his few nice moments because they seem fake next to how he treated Rio at Kawano. I also have no idea why Elena would have been attracted to him in the first place, though her reason for marrying him is briefly described. Lastly, is it just me or is the aloof-and-cruel-Asian-father trope tiring at this point. Hiro's cruelty is believable, but when combined with the pretty negative view of Japan that we get, I'm worried that at some points it almost becomes a stereotype.
Quote of the Week
"I killed a kid at my school, a boy whispered to me in the cafeteria. Stabbed him to death. Did I feel like a murderer? I didn't know how to answer. I knew what he said was true, but I also didn't know what feeling like a murderer meant. Still, if I'd killed someone, shouldn't I know?" (6).
- In the novel, Rio hasn't told her family about her past and the murder of Tomoya Yu. What affect do you think this secret will have on their relationships?
- Rio mentions briefly being touched by Tomoya Yu, and the murder itself has yet to be fully described or explained, creating an element of mystery. Do you have any theories over these events? What do you think happened to finally set Rio off, or was her snap purely a side effect from her mother's death? How do you think her favorite teacher's odd behavior plays into the story?