PULL ME UNDER by Kelly Luce


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Debut novel from the award-winning author of the story collection Three Scenarios in Which Hana Sasaki Grows a Tail (2013).

Rio Silvestri is a nurse living in Boulder, Colorado. She has a husband, Sal, and a daughter, Lily. Sal and Lily both know that Rio grew up in Japan and that she’s estranged from her father. What they don’t know is that, before she changed her name, Rio was Chizuru Akitani, daughter of the world-famous violinist Hiro Akitani. Nor do they know that, when she was 12 years old, Chizuru Akitani killed one of her classmates. When Hiro dies, Rio decides to go back to Japan for his funeral. While there, she discovers new truths about her father—and herself—and her carefully constructed life begins to unravel. For a book about murder, rage, and explosive family secrets, this novel is shockingly dull. The story moves at a plodding pace, all sense of momentum undercut by Luce’s apparent inability to distinguish telling details from narrative clutter. For example, there’s a whole paragraph devoted to “Sal’s famous blueberry-mint vinaigrette,” but Rio remains, throughout, a cipher. Momentous events occur, but the protagonist doesn’t really change, and readers will end the novel with no better sense of who or what Rio is—or who or what Chizuru was—than they had at the beginning. It emerges that Chizuru was an unhappy child, bullied at school and neglected by her father. Her mother, a free-spirited American artist, killed herself. But not every child who suffers adversity becomes a killer. Rio refers to the “black organ” inside her, which is a lovely metaphor but in no way illuminating. And the redemptive note on which the novel ends feels unearned—not in a moral sense but aesthetically—and disingenuous, self-help platitudes from a solipsistic heroine who has learned nothing from her journey.

A potentially interesting story sapped of interest by slow pacing and lack of character development.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 2016
ISBN: 978-0-374-23858-2
Page count: 272pp
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 2016


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