cover image Fault Lines

Fault Lines

Emily Itami. Custom House, $27.99 (224p) ISBN 978-0-06-309980-7

In Itami’s thoughtful debut, an affluent and disaffected Tokyo housewife and mother has an affair and reflects on her life choices. At 16, Mizuki travels from her rural Japanese province to New York City to spend a year in an American high school, where she learns to be assertive and pursues an interest in music. Back in Japan, she struggles in school, raging against her “stupid, archaic system of letters,” and returns to New York, where she spends another three years and sings in a band. She continues her rebellious music career back in Tokyo, until she despairs from a lack of financial security and marries Tatsuya. After a decade of a loving marriage and two children, Tatsuya starts coming home cranky and distracted after long hours at work. He loves their two young children, but doesn’t help with their upbringing; he treats Mizuki with disdain. Mizuki then becomes fast friends with charming restaurateur Teramoto Kiyoshi, with whom she’s able to share her Americanized perspective. She initially resists her attraction to him, but their friendship soon blossoms into a romance. While a somewhat pat ending feels unworthy of the novel’s provocative premise, Itami makes palpable Mizuki’s loneliness and her need to feel seen. Itami’s brave, frank portrayal of Japan’s societal expectations of women is worth a look. Agent: Kirsty McLachlan, Morgan Green Creatives. (Sept.)