Pull Me Under | Kelly Luce (Book Review)

Friends! It’s time for another book review. This time I’m reviewing Pull Me Under by Kelly Luce. Check it out below and see what I thought about it.
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published: November 1st 2016 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
ISBN: 0374238588 (ISBN13: 9780374238582)

Kelly Luce’s Pull Me Under tells the story of Rio Silvestri, who, when she was twelve years old, fatally stabbed a school bully. Rio, born Chizuru Akitani, is the Japanese American daughter of the revered violinist Hiro Akitani–a Living National Treasure in Japan and a man Rio hasn’t spoken to since she left her home country for the United States (and a new identity) after her violent crime. Her father’s death, along with a mysterious package that arrives on her doorstep in Boulder, Colorado, spurs her to return to Japan for the first time in twenty years. There she is forced to confront her past in ways she never imagined, pushing herself, her relationships with her husband and daughter, and her own sense of who she is to the brink.

The novel’s illuminating and palpably atmospheric descriptions of Japan and its culture, as well its elegantly dynamic structure, call to mind both Ruth Ozeki’s A Tale for the Time Being and David Guterson’s Snow Falling on Cedars. Pull Me Under is gripping, psychologically complex fiction–at the heart of which is an affecting exploration of home, self-acceptance, and the limits of forgiveness.

I think I’m in the minority when it comes to my feelings about this book. It seems to be getting pretty great reviews but I only felt it was okay. This isn’t a book that I would have picked up had it not been one of the choices for Book of the Month Club in December.

The summary stood out for me and I was really looking forward to what I thought would be a deep and gripping book from start to finish. Instead I was left with a book that maybe peaked in the first few chapters.

I loved the idea of a child who does something as horrific as Chizuru in killing her classmate and then finding her as an adult as she ends up having to face her past again. The premise sold me right away and as I started reading it I was sure that it was going to live up to my expectations. The first ¼ of the book takes you through what happens to Chizuru in the aftermath of what she did and then meets back up with her as Rio Silvestri, an adult with a steady, stable life and family.

Then suddenly her world is thrown upside down as she’s forced to face her past after her father dies and she travels back to Japan. That’s sort of where the book lost me. Chizuru was a damaged kid with a rough life as a “hafu” (half Japanese-half American) who was endlessly teased and picked on. Then she lost her mother and her world fell apart. I felt for her and was heartbroken for a little girl.

Rio on the other hand was just a little bit insufferable. She was self-centered and I couldn’t really find many redeeming qualities in her. I thought maybe as she went to Japan and sorted through everything that I would find something in her that I liked or that at least there would be a lot more drama and intrigue as the book went on. Instead I was just left with a character I didn’t really enjoy and a plot that was pretty easy to figure out.

The one thing I did enjoy about this book is the Japanese culture and the way it is written. I enjoyed the imagery and feeling like I was learning about Japanese customs and traditions.

I do feel like I’m in the minority as far as feeling like this book didn’t live up to expectations. A lot of people seemed to enjoy it and see it as a gripping psychological thriller so you may want to check it out for yourself.


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