I received an advance reader’s copy (ARC) of Fault Lines by Emily Itami. Since this version is just a proof and not the final version, I won’t quote directly and will keep my comments general.
I love days when I read an entire book from start to finish, which is what I did with this book. It isn’t the type of novel I usually read, but I like expanding my horizons sometimes.
In Emily Itami’s debut Fault Lines, Mizuki is a housewife in Tokyo, with two children and a husband she loves. However, something about her life feels empty. Her husband is distant and constantly busy at work, and her children are demanding and stressful. Mizuki feels as if her life isn’t hers anymore, until one day she meets the handsome Kiyoshi. Suddenly, she is reinvigorated, feeling for the first time in a long time. As she and Kiyoshi grow closer, and her feelings for him intensify, though, she faces a choice about what type of life she wants to live.
Like I said, this isn’t my usual novel, and I don’t really know what compelled me to read it. That said, I didn’t dislike this. Mizuki’s character is layered and full of emotion, and her relationships with those around her are complex and well portrayed. Her narration is full of personality. The other characters, especially Kiyoshi, are written well too.
I also especially loved the setting of this story. Tokyo feels vibrant and as alive as the characters who inhabit it. It’s simultaneously foreign and familiar as Mizuki rediscovers her love for it, seeing it in a new light. We see many sides of the city, and Itami’s love for this place really shines through.
All that said, when it came to Mizuki’s journey as a character, especially in terms of who she decided to be with, I wasn’t too invested. I didn’t actively root against any of her decisions, nor did I necessarily agree with some of them. While it was evident why she makes the choices she does, and she is mostly sympathetic, I was more along for the ride rather than having an opinion one way or another.
In the end, Fault Lines is an intelligent examination of life in Tokyo for women like Mizuki, and how things like marriage and motherhood can be both nourishing and crushing, sometimes at the same time. The protagonist is complicated, as are her actions. While the story wasn’t really something that had me on the edge of my seat, it was interesting to watch it unfold. Itami strikes me as a writer to watch. This book wasn’t fully my thing, but I can definitely see others really loving it, and it would be a great pick for a book club to read and discuss.
Overall rating: 8/10
Fault Lines will be published on September 7th, 2021!