cover image Pull Me Under

Pull Me Under

Kelly Luce. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $26 (272p) ISBN 978-0-374-23858-2

In Luce’s (Three Scenarios in Which Hana Sasaki Grows a Tail) debut novel, a Japan-born mother leaves her family in Colorado and travels back to Japan to attend the funeral of her estranged father, a world-renowned violinist. As a girl, Rio Silvestri fatally stabbed a bully at school, a crime whose shame led her to move to the United States, change her name, and keep her identity a secret from her husband and daughter. The novel’s first two acts deal directly with Rio’s slow exhumation of her past, including a reunion with Ms. Danny, her teacher at the time of the murder. After accompanying Ms. Danny on a revealing spiritual pilgrimage, Rio, unable to prove her identity, is arrested by Japanese authorities at her childhood home. Her imprisonment brings her American family to Japan, where her past is finally laid bare. Set mostly in the countryside, Luce deftly evokes Japan without exoticizing it, though a structure heavy on flashback undercuts too much of the drama. But the final act is the novel’s strongest and most confident, weaving the book’s threads together and leaving a lasting reverberation. Agent: Katherine Fausset, Curtis Brown. (Nov.)