We begin in 1969 as Yuki is setting out on the world, a world in New York because her Japanese parents are living there. Yuki and her new friend, Odile are two high school misfits and when Yuki’s parents move back to Japan she moves in with Odile and her novelist mother Lillian. Their relationship comes to a halt when Odile is talent spotted as a model and she leaves Yuki’s world, leaving her feeling abandoned and bereft. I instantly fell in love with Yuki, for all her quirks and oddities. I felt for her, her lost dreams and that she never really found the right person to love.
The story switches between Yuki in 1969 and her son Jay in 2016 moving between New York, Berlin and Connecticut as we follow her and Jay who, as an adult in the present day, is forced to confront his mother who abandoned him when he was only two years old. He himself is just a new Dad and struggling with his role, his wife and new born child.
The book explores the question are we in control of our own destiny or do things happen to us, she constantly questions the adult v child relationship that at times is a little unsettling. Why are we driven to pleasing our parents when often we have little in common with them, for instance would we really be friends with our parents if we first met them in adult life.
Buchanan covers a lot of issues in her debut novel, maybe too many with adolescent friendships, becoming parents, father/daughter and mother/son relationships, as well as an exploration of love, loneliness and reconciliation as dealt with as issues. Yet her writing doesn’t make it feel too much, the story is strong enough to cope and with an intense and strong last quarter of the story is a great read. A super debut.