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Pull Me Under by Kelly Luce
Literary fiction

Pull Me Under

We love supporting debut authors. Congrats, Kelly Luce, on your first book!

by Kelly Luce

Quick take

Luce delves deep into the problems Rio faced - losing her mother, being abandoned by her father and tormented by the school bully - but never once makes excuses for her violent act.

Why I love it

Liberty Hardy
BOTM Judge

What no one knows about Rio Silvestri, a thirty-something woman living a picture perfect life in Colorado with her husband and daughter, is that when she was 12 years old and living in Japan, she stabbed the school bully in the neck with a letter opener. Gasp!

Rio would be content to keep her secret hidden for the rest of her life, but when a mysterious letter arrives at her doorstep informing her of the death of her father, Rio realizes she may not have put the past completely behind her She journeys back to Japan alone for his funeral opening the door to decades-old hurts and grief, while taking readers on a dark journey in search of truth and closure.

Kelly Luce is an incendiary writer, and her sentences sizzle like a lit fuse. Beginning with the story of Rio’s traumatic childhood in Japan, Luce delves deep into the problems Rio faced - losing her mother, being abandoned by her father and tormented by the school bully - but never once makes excuses for her violent act. Instead Luce captures Rio’s loneliness and rage, and explores these themes with rawness and compassion, from Rio’s teen years as a resident of a Japanese psychiatric facility, through to her years of rebuilding herself in America, right up to her return to Japan.

The question at the heart of this psychologically intense mystery is not a whodunit - we know Rio did it. Instead, the mystery lies within Rio herself: Has she really changed? Will returning to Japan make her repressed feelings and anger come bubbling to the surface? Is it possible to be a whole person without redemption or forgiveness? Can a person ever escape her past?

I cannot stress enough how magnificent the writing is in the book, and how well Luce breathes a haunting realism into the story so that despair and hope become entwined.

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Member thoughts

All (1314)
All (1314)
Love (363)
Like (788)
Dislike (163)
1386 ratings
  • 26% Love
  • 57% Like
  • 12% Dislike
  • McHenry, IL

    I loved this book. The growth, the lack of excuses she makes for her behavior, the writing was beautiful. She was relatable too - I haven't killed someone, but everyone's felt that blackness creeping.

  • Cincinnati, OH

    This book was so much better than I expected. And I expected it to be good. In short, this is a story of self discovery which leads to self acceptance. No matter where you go, you are already here.

  • Marysville, WA

    This book takes you through so many emotions and always keeps you wondering, even at the end there are a couple unanswered questions, which usually drives me batty, but in this book it works perfectly

  • Denver, CO

    This book really took me away; it's thought provoking, well thought out and written and even made me chuckle more than once. Sometimes it feels so much better losing yourself in someone else's issues.

  • San Benito, TX

    At first I didn't think it was going to be a relatable book to me and boy was I wrong. Great story on how the past catches up with you and the mask you wear to try and conceal. I cried at the ending!!

  • San Angelo, TX

    I love how it introduced a "normal" family, while revealing their complicated skeletons! Takeaways: There is no such thing as being all GOOD/BAD & what we are ALL capable of given the circumstances.

  • West Lafayette, IN

    The characters are complicated, intricate, and beautiful and even in those points of plot where I found it a bit predictable, I was still in love with the writing style, pace, and overarching story.

  • Los Angeles, CA

    I really enjoyed this book. I was drawn into Rio's story and her relationship with her two different families..the one in Japan and the one in America. Will be excited to see more from this author.

  • Butte, MT

    I found myself feeling bad for the main character and actually understanding why she did what she did to a tormenting bully. The story got right to the point from the start and was easy to follow.

  • Eugene, OR

    Despite the protagonist's flaws and selfishness, my heart broke for her struggling to maintain her identity. The book tilted off a bit towards the end, but is overlooked by the effective narration.

  • Whittier, CA

    This book was a quick read for me. The story reeled me in and reminded me of the days when I lived in Okinawa. The main character had annoying moments, but it was few and far between. Good read!

  • Brooklyn, NY

    I started reading this while traveling through Japan (and eating onagiri), so I was really able to relate to much of how the author described the culture and scenery. A unique and gripping story,

  • Washington DC, DC

    Luce explores identity and how possible or necessary it is to hold on to certain parts of ourselves vs. grow up/out of them. Interesting self-discovery perspective as well. Beautiful debut novel.

  • Kalamazoo, MI

    I loved this read! I thought Luce did a great job transporting me into Japan, giving me descriptions of the land that really painted a picture, and I loved how every character had a hidden depth.

  • Arlington, VA

    This book is on point regarding our relationships with people in our lives. Told through a different culture, Japanese, describing our false facade we put on to others they never truly know us.

  • Roseville, MN

    This book had me captivated from the beginning. I loved the plot and writing style. Luce does a great job showing wrong-doing and family drama without it seeming cheesy and overdone. Great read!

  • Bronx, NY

    I honestly thought this was going to be a boring book because it was a little slow at the start but once I got into it I loved it. It was well written and the message of the story was beautiful.

  • Marcy, NY

    It was such a unique twist on the classic finding yourself novel. Luce's narrative as the voice of the main character is such a refreshing writing style that it instantly grabbed my attention.

  • San Francisco, CA

    I loved all of the references to Japan and the connections between past and present self. I was both rooting for Rio and frustrated by her secrets. A beautiful backdrop and strong characters.

  • Hudson, WI

    I lived 3 years in Tokushima as an ALT, and I knew kids who could easily have become like Rio... Very powerful story that speaks volumes about how hard Japan is for people who are different.

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