Bookshots: 'Pull Me Under' by Kelly Luce

Bookshots: 'Pull Me Under' by Kelly Luce

Bookshots: Pumping new life into the corpse of the book review


Pull Me Under

The most compelling thread throughout 'Pull Me Under' is Luce’s take on the cultural phenomenon of Kireru (a term used to describe kids in Japan who snap and commit violent acts) and Rio’s fear that it could happen again. 

Who wrote it?

Kelly Luce, author of the story collection Three Scenarios in Which Hana Sasaki Grows a Tail. Her writing has earned her fellowships with the MacDowell Colony, Regdale, Jentel Arts, Tin House, and the Sewanee Writer’s Conference. After graduating from college, she lived and worked in Japan for three years and often invites readers there in her stories.

Plot in a Box:

After receiving news of her father’s death, Rio Silvestri returns to Japan for the first time in 20 years. She travels there alone to confront the childhood secret she’s kept from the life she’s built anew in Boulder, Colorado.

Invent a new title for this book:

Black Organ

Read this if you like(d):

Fables and complex female protagonists

Meet the book’s lead(s):

In Colorado, people know her as Rio Silvestri—a loving wife, mother, and nurse. In Japan, where she grew up, people knew her by the name she was born with: Chizuru Akitani, the half-American twelve-year-old who tarnished the reputation of her renowned violinist father by fatally stabbing a school bully.

Said lead(s) would be portrayed in a movie by:

The fierce intensity of Lucy Liu.

Setting: would you want to live there?

I’d live in Japan if I got to eat onigiri with umeboshi all the time.

What was your favorite sentence?

My heart cracks open like an egg.

The Verdict:

Journeys home inevitably turn us toward the past. For Rio Silvestry, who was locked away for murder most of her adolescence, that journey is especially troublesome. She has done everything since being released to change herself: moving to a different country, altering her name, losing weight, and quieting her dark urges by training for grueling 50K marathons. Going home forces her to confront the fear she’s running away from: What if there’s still a part of her that is Chizuru Akitani?

The most compelling thread throughout Pull Me Under is Luce’s take on the cultural phenomenon of Kireru (a term used to describe kids in Japan who snap and commit violent acts) and Rio’s fear that it could happen again. Rio doesn’t trust her own heart, calling it a “black organ”—this dark thing she has to control. Running is her only way to do so, which Luce captures beautifully when Rio says the movement “was about getting my mind to a place where it knew when to listen to its body but also when to pat its head like a good, obedient child.”

Pull Me Under sometimes reads like an old-school fable, getting caught up in events more than key scenes that drive the novel forward. The novel sags a bit through the middle, but recovers as the two halves of Rio’s life can no longer be separated. 

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smithreynolds's picture
smithreynolds from Spokane, WA USA is reading The writing on the wall. November 7, 2016 - 9:31pm

Nice REview. Thanks. I was reading your resume and Tin House caught my eye. I've taken a few shots at them but never hit the target. I'm impressed. Paris Review. I once again have to delegate this author to my inner radar and wait for the time to be right to read her stuff. Thanks for the heads up. Huffington Post...damn I'm impressed.

So nice to have your review here. Thanks. gsr.