An unlikely romance blooms when a man’s car breaks down in rural Oklahoma in this novel.
After American student Eiji Takezo graduates from Harvard Law School, his Japanese father pressures him to become an investment banker and take over the family business in New York City. But first, his dad wants him to move to Tokyo to find a suitable Japanese wife. Eiji defies his father’s wishes, angering his family, and essentially runs away from home in his beat-up Honda, which breaks down in Cedar Springs, Oklahoma. There, Booty and Mae Crutchfield come to his assistance, offering to fix his car, feed him, and give him a place to stay. Quickly, the Crutchfields bring him into the orbit of their lives, convincing him to take a job teaching at a local grade school and renaming him “Eli Take,” which Mae finds easier to pronounce. Eiji soon begins a romance with Blair Don Mason, but her meddling mother is intent on sabotaging the relationship, insisting that Blair Don marry the despicable principal Bobby Wrightsberg. Blair Don loves Eiji, but she’s vulnerable to her mother’s intrusions. Meanwhile, Eiji fears that two of his students are victims of abuse and investigates ways that he can save them. He’s also torn between his attachment to his new life and the life he could have if he acquiesces to his family’s demands. Overall, this is a sweet, largely lighthearted tale that’s often entertaining and makes minimal demands on the reader. Debut author Finegan has a knack for writing comedy in a nearly vaudevillian style, and the culture clash between Eiji and his new adoptive family and their friends produces some memorably comedic moments; at one point, for example, the Crutchfields’ neighbor tries to convince Eiji to let him go live in Eiji’s New York apartment. However, the writing can be overwrought at times, particularly the dialogue, which can devolve into shrill repetition that becomes exhausting to read: “You idiot! How dare you tell me that you didn’t know? How could you not know? I told you! I told how much I loved you. Doesn’t that mean anything? You knew I wanted to marry you!”
An often funny but occasionally overwritten romantic tale.