cover image Starling Days

Starling Days

Rowan Hisayo Buchanan. Overlook, $26 (304p) ISBN 978-1-4197-4359-7

Buchanan (Harmless Like You) traces the strain of depression on a marriage in this bleak and eloquent novel. Six months after 32-year-old classicist Mina Umeda marries her boyfriend of 10 years, she walks pensively across the George Washington Bridge amid a depressive episode. Confronted by the police, she’s unable to convince them she was just clearing her head. Oscar, her Japanese-British husband, picks her up and suggests they go to London to distract her from her depression. There, she ruminates on an unfinished project about Greco-Roman myths titled The Women Who Survived. When Mina’s decision to go off her antidepressants and birth control exacerbates her illness, Oscar grows casually cruel in his frustration (“Nobody gets the life they thought they would”). He returns to New York City while Mina embarks on an affair with Phoebe, the sister of Oscar’s best friend. After Mina’s frantic fixation on Phoebe begins to push her away, Oscar returns to London and the married couple struggles forward. Buchanan sharply observes the confusing sensations of depression (“Sometimes I want to die and sometimes I want to buy a box of tomatoes and stand by the fridge eating them out of a paper carton”). Readers willing to brave the darkness will find a worthy, nuanced portrait of a woman’s struggle for self-determination amid mental illness. (Apr.)