Pull Me Under was my Book of the Month selection for December. I wasn't really thrilled with any of the selections, but I wanted to get two other books, and you can't skip the month and still do that, so I went with Pull Me Under. The story here is about Rio, originally Chizuru, who is half American and half Japanese, and spent the first half of her life there--though eight years of that time was spent in a juvenile detention facility after she stabbed and killed a classmate with a letter opener. After she was released from the center, she moved to the United States, changed her name to Rio, and essentially erased her entire past. Now married and with an eleven-year-old daughter, Rio Silvestri is completely disconnected from the life she once led...
...until she gets a letter that her father, a Japanese National Treasure and renowned violinist, has died. Rio decides to return to Japan to attend the funeral despite the fact that she and her father haven't spoken in at least eighteen years. She leaves her husband and daughter behind in the US, not wanting them to realize who she was in her past life, and jets off for the funeral. Once in Japan, she runs into Danny, one of her former teachers, and basically invites herself along into Danny's life and onto a pilgrimage to eighty-eight temples that Danny has sent herself to doing. Meanwhile she continues to avoid telling her husband what's really going on, despite his obvious frustration and knowledge that something is going on.
We know from the beginning that Rio killed someone, and that she doesn't really feel like a murderer. There's a sense of disconnect from the actual murder and its aftermath and what her life has become. That said, I still didn't like Rio. She has this real sense of righteousness about her and is, again, a very selfish character. I understand her fear that her husband might not want anything to do with her if he knows about her path--that I get. But when she returns to Japan and forces herself into Danny's life, when Danny clearly does not want her there, and then inviting other people along, too...that was incredibly inconsiderate and very selfish of her. She holds no consideration for other people and how they might feel regarding her father, and instead seems to feel that she should be the center of this trip even though she and her father have been completely out of touch for more than half her life.
There was some lovely writing here, and I feel like Luce got a real sense of Japan for someone like myself who hasn't ever been there. I don't think Luce is a bad writer, not at all, and I liked how the story was constructed, all of the supporting characters, and how unique everything was. I just didn't like Rio as a character or a person, finding her far too selfish for my tastes--refusing to be there for her daughter because her daughter was "testing" her, feeling indignation that her husband is upset that she was hiding her past for their entire marriage, etc.--and that really dragged down the book as a whole for me.
3 stars out of 5.