Review: Harmless Like You by Rowan Hisayo Buchanan

I’ve been wanting to read this one ever since I saw that gorgeous cover back in the summer, and now it’s finally in my hands!!! I seemed to be drawn to the cover because it reminded me of one of my favorite paintings by Henrietta Harris:tumblr_o76aytdajk1v9n6ydo1_500Source

I was familiar with Buchanan’s writing when I first read her haunting short story featured here. And I was once again more than impressed with her honest and compelling writing in Harmless Like You. 

Just to throw in a few quotes that I loved:

“‘Shinyū?’ Yuki had never heard the word before. Her Japanese was like that—things about which her parents did not speak did not exist.”

“‘You should travel. The world is huge.’
She couldn’t tell him that she felt small enough, so she slugged her second mimosa.”

“She was gone, but never missing.”

“‘My math teacher used to say the universe is made of infinite mysteries. Like all the digits of pi — no matter how many you find there’ll always be more. Every time we ask a question, we get more questions.’”

And then on talking about painting a naked woman in her Life Drawing class:

“‘If she had seen the woman on the street, Yuki thought, she would not have seen her at all. It was only gripped by the burnt wood that she was able to know the woman.’”

OK, now to the blurb.
Set across New York, Berlin, and Connecticut, this follows the stories of Yuki Oyama, a Japanese girl fighting to make it as an artist, and Yuki’s son Jay, who, as an adult in the present day, is forced to confront the mother who abandoned him when he was only two years old.

‘My son?’
Yes. Yes. Yes.
‘Where is he?’

I was truly excited when I first started this, however, the more I read, the more I realized that this novel was starting to feel a little like A Little Life; a lot of darkness thrown in with little to no light, which I’m not really ready to go through again. I really tried picking it up multiple times, but each time it came back to the same result and empty feeling inside. I also wasn’t overly attached to any of the characters, though I can’t quite place why. (But the fact that they’re set out to be unlikable characters is huge factor to consider, since those are usually a hit-or-miss with me.) (Mostly miss.) As a result, I had no motive to get to the end, so I ended up skim-reading the second half of the book.

Just a list of things that happened that left me feeling extremely somber and then some:

  • Yukiko’s parents move back to Japan and leave her in America for her education.
  • Yuki moves in with her then new friend Odile & mother, Lillian.
  • Yuki dropping her education.
  • Lillian being abused by her boyfriend, Lou.
  • Yuki starves herself, which physically hurt me to read.
  • Switching to present day, Jay cheated on his wife while she was pregnant. (I was seething with rage over this one.)
  • Jay’s dad dies while driving down to visit his newborn granddaughter, Eliot.
  • Meanwhile in 1970, Yuki’s trying to win over Lillian’s abusive boyfriend and feels victorious for a hot minute when she succeeds in having “a person of her very own.”
  • I can’t even remember one positive thing happening over the course of what I read in the first half.

So maybe I’ll pick this up again and finish it properly when I’m in the mood for a colder read, but for now A Little Life has ruined that for the next few books.8685184no rating for now

Note: I’m an Amazon Affiliate. If you’re interested in buying Harmless Like You, just click on the image below to go through my link. I’ll make a small commission!

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