Harmless Like You by Rowan Hisayo Buchanan
Harmless Like You
Author: Rowan Hisayo Buchanan
Genre: Fiction, Contemporary
Publisher: W.W. Norton & Company
Release Date: February 28, 2017 (first published August 11, 2016)
Goodreads Synopsis: Written in startlingly beautiful prose, Harmless Like You is set across New York, Connecticut, and Berlin, following Yuki Oyama, a Japanese girl fighting to make it as an artist, and Yuki’s son Jay who, as an adult in the present day, is forced to confront his mother’s abandonment of him when he was only two years old.
The novel opens when Yuki is sixteen and her father is posted back to Japan. Though she and her family have been living as outsiders in New York City, Yuki opts to stay, intoxicated by her friendship with the beautiful aspiring model Odile, the energy of the city, and her desire to become an artist. But when she becomes involved with an older man and the relationship turns destructive, Yuki’s life is unmoored. Harmless Like You is a suspenseful novel about the complexities of identity, art, adolescent friendships, and familial bonds that asks—and ultimately answers—how does a mother desert her son?
Jen’s Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟
REVIEW: Harmless Like You was an intense read, with many perspectives to fit everything back in together up to the very end. A read I feel many can relate to, whether being in a whole new place, with new people, circumstances one never expected or saw coming, life moments that can bring joy or a mixture of sad feels and pain. There was all of that and so much more in this novel.
I found myself upset by many of the pages, shaking my head in several parts, and it wasn’t from any bad writing or lack of, it was from everything that Yuki went through and allowed herself to live. A girl that grew up in a country that wasn’t her parents own, always feeling out of place, never having anyone her age to rely on. Then she meets Odile, who offers her some sort of a friendship, in Yuki’s mind it felt like she finally found her place. And then began all the craziness in her life.
“Yuki didn’t stay late after school or talk to men. She was a dutiful sidewalk slab of a citizen. But she’d seen something she wanted to steal so badly her fingers itched with it: this girl’s sunrise-hair.”
A story of Yuki trying to fit in, to be free and happy, wanting more of her moments to be like those in Odile’s daily routines. If she had only met a different girl, with different intentions, maybe her life wouldn’t have come out the way it did, maybe her son wouldn’t be living in a world without his mother and being a cruel, selfish, husband and father. There are many moments like these, the entire story of Yuki’s beginning and her son’s present situation.
And what a son she has in Jay, another part that made me just as irritated and angered, but understanding in some parts of what he must be feeling, why he is as damaged as he has come to be. Doesn’t mean I cared to forgive any of his callous’ way of thinking. Or the fact that he tried to justify his indiscretion, then later on supposedly regretting it, but choosing not to say anything about it.
“I’d never dreamed of leaving my wife until this creature came into our lives. When I was a kid, I used to ask dad, was it my fault Mommy left? He always said she’d just been an unhappy person. My old psychiatrist said it was ridiculous to blame my two-year-old self. I believed her, until I had a baby of my own.”
I couldn’t place this novel down, even with everything that set me off about it, I found that it captured the story of many. There are numerous things that happen in life, that many go through, several situations like those of Yuki and Jay, of Odile and her mother Lillian, even of people like Lou who are sad and pathetic and really don’t understand the cruelty they place upon the person they are said to love.
Harmless Like You makes one think and feel for all of them, mostly wanting to snap some sense into them, but no matter the feel it was part of what made this read as good as it was. Every page as interesting as the next.
***I received this copy from W.W. Norton & Company in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.***