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Pull Me Under
Pull Me UnderLulu (3)
First BOTM

I come from a family where books are essential, since I was a little girl everybody was always reading something and the best plan for all of us is buying new books. My house is literally a library, we have millions of books, but the funny story is that every time you are looking for something to read it seems like there is not any book in the house, even if they are thousands you have not read yet. What I have liked of BOTM is that you will find books that you will never have found otherwise. For example, for me pull me under was not a life changing book, but it was a really entertaining novel and I had fun reading it. One of my favorite things of BOTM is the note you receive from the judge with the books, feeling part of a group of people that enjoy reading as much as I do is really fun.

Pull Me UnderLC (1)
Not Pulled In

I admit I struggled with this book. I found the story fascinating, but was very underwhelmed by the storytelling itself. I felt disconnected from the characters, which was a major bummer for me. I also hated how rushed the storyline with Danny felt. Did anyone else struggle with this?

CJade (4)
This was my first BOTM and I was captivated by it. I agree that the plot was lacking, however. It felt a little all over the place, especially when Rio was sent to jail, and particular subplots were rushed. I thought that the Danny storyline would remain until near the end, and was surprised when her death didn't have a more lasting affect on Rio. I will say, what kept me interested was Rio herself. I agree, she is selfish and puts herself (and her running) before her family, and many of her decisions don't seem to make sense. But I felt she was so real. Considering the childhood she had and the things that she went through, I felt that her character made sense. It's easy for a reader who has never been a hafu, or heavily bullied, or done a horrific thing in their childhood, to see Rio as someone who needed to just shut up and be a good mom and wife. But I loved that she was so much more than that, that she didn't stifle her needs for others, even if society would say she should. Overall she is what kept me attached to the story, and even with its pitfalls I enjoyed Pull Me Under as my first BOTM.
AriannaSoltero (4)
I actually loved the book but hated the character. She seems selfish and would get on my nerves but I think that is an element that makes the book enticing to me.
CabinFever (6)
Agreed. The opening sequence was so enticing and I enjoyed the part of her life in a detention center, but once the protagonist tried to move on she left me far behind. I liked the concept of returning to Japan, but I also felt like I was being told so much about Japanese tradition and culture that it didn't weave the story line in very well.
Kelsey (28)
Totally agree with you! I was really surprised when I finished that such an intense, dramatic story line was just so....boring? I never felt connected to the characters and the storytelling itself didn't reel me in at all.
symonebooks (7)
This is exactly how I felt. I wish the book was more from childhood Chizuru's perspective than from adult Rio's perspectives. The flashbacks to her childhood were the best parts in my opinion, but even then -- it was still difficult to connect.
JenniferM (1)
I also agree. I wasn't a huge fan of this book, but mostly because I never liked nor had sympathy for the main character. I never felt like I understood Rio's motivation for her actions and felt like Rio was "whining". This seemed like more a fault of the writing than of the story line. Overall, didn't love my first BOTM selection.
ccheeks (1)
I also thought that Rio was a whiner, but I thought it was just me. She also seemed more in love with running than her family. They better not get in the way of a good run. Not a very nice person.
Jane (3)
I think the story was ambitious and interesting, but I also agree that it was definitely underdeveloped. The plot is reminiscent of the Japanese psychological thriller genre that plays on the disturbing and mysterious with a slow-burning plot and intense complex characters, and it almost seemed like it was going to go that way (which made me excited to choose this book). But then it somehow ended up being a story of self-discovery that almost reminded me of Wild by Cheryl Strayed. Many of the characters (like Danny) felt like props used to carry through with a plot line that bumbled along the surface, lacking the depth needed to really immerse myself in it. I think the one aspect of the novel that shone through was the portrayal of Japan and the author's evident love and understanding of its culture.
dani (1)
I agree. I was also not impressed with the ending.
Pull Me UnderJessM (7)
A Good Read

This was my third BOTM pick, and I really enjoyed it. I thought the setting was described beautifully and the author made me feel more famikiar with Japanese culture. It read smoothly and quickly, which was helpfuk to mr since I'm usually at home with my son and have small intervals to read. I would recommend this book to others for sure!

Pull Me UnderLiberty Hardy (82)
Discuss With Us

Can you escape your past? Do you think Rio could have continued to live happily for the rest of her life in America without returning to Japan to confront her demons?

JacquleneR (7)
I think that many in it current society trick themselves into either living happily or just believing that that's what they're doing. I think that Rio was doing just as well as anyone else at living a normal life. I think she never would have had to face it, but I was proud of her that she chose to face it head on instead of failing to take any of the many opportunities to turn her back on self-discovery which presented themselves to her. For those who say that this book is not thought provoking, I am glad that you have lived a life that doesn't require you to think about what you would do if confronted with your past mistakes or those of your loved ones. I identified a lot with Rio and was very happy to see her come to terms with her past, whatever it may mean for her future.
CJade (4)
I identified with Rio as well, and felt the book was very thought-provoking. It made me face my own selfishness and wonder whether I would have handled anything differently than Rio did, despite the fact that at times she was unlikable. It is so incredibly easy, particularly as Americans, to follow the order of events (school, marriage, baby, house) and become somewhat of a robot, never facing your past, your weaknesses, your mistakes. Really we become so lost in the roles we've taken on that we neglect the human soul inside of us that needs so much more. I, too, loved reading a story that faced the soul, that recognized how ugly this process may be and did not shy away from the imperfections that each of us has. I felt Rio's journey to be refreshing and courageous, particularly because there was no telling what it would make of her future. To choose to face the soul inside of you and listen to it, while not knowing what the outcome will be, is a very brave thing that not many of us do.
LaurenMagoo (3)
I think the past always "lives" with you until you reconcile it. Rio could never forget about her past or she wouldn't have been lying to Sal. She had to face it. But I think this journey was less about Rio facing the murder she committed and more about her facing her abandonment issues. She felt abandoned by her mother who killed herself, by her father who left her in the juvenile prison, and by Ms. Danny - a teacher that she felt a connection to who did not save her.
CJade (4)
I completely agree, that is a great analysis. I can see how the story was more about Rio facing her fears of what others think about her past, not so much what she thinks about it. You can see this in the way she blatantly tells the candy shop owner who she is, almost to gauge his reaction. She's finally beginning to let go of the fear of what people will think. And as the story goes on, she comes to see that being honest about who she is isn't nearly as terrifying as she always thought it would be, and that people won't always abandon her just because of her past.
Sooz830 (20)
While I enjoyed the book, I felt it lacked depth. We don't really know about how happy she was in her new life, as we met her right as it started to unravel.
Jbnr (1)
Could not agree more. This was a story, and one that kept me turning the pages, but certainly not a thought provoking book nor a book that lingers long after the last page
prjusto (13)
I think it would have always haunted her. Her life was shaped by moments- the stabbing, the suicide, and the distant father. The journey in the center of the book was a microcosm of her journey back to Japan. She could change her name, but not her past.
claudia (10)
I think it was like Danny said, the past has a way of "eating away at you" and she would have always been haunted by her past. She felt such guilt for keeping so much of herself from those closest to her, that I don't think she truly would have been genuinely happy without opening up to Sal and Lily, and herself.
Liz (2)
I think her life could have gone on as-is indefinitely, and maybe she wouldn't even know the difference. I believe that honesty with herself and with her family is the only way to true freedom which eventually leads to happiness. I know from personal experience that when you're keeping secrets and lying to someone you love, it's like a prison. Every day. Coming clean is like throwing open the gates!
KatrinaJohnson (2)
I think an arguement can be made for her not actually being truly happy in her life in America. How happy can you really be if you are constantly clinging to a mask, ever afraid of it slipping and the people around you seeing the real you? Her past effected every facet of her life, evrn down to giving away wedding gifts and hidding it from her husband. That said, I think she has a chance at happiness after the book ends. If Sal can forgive her, they have a chance for real happiness.
Pull Me UnderLiberty Hardy (82)
Discuss With Us

Were you surprised that Tomoya Yu's parents were so kind to Rio? What does this rather anticlimactic scene say about the nature of her crime?

Lulu (3)
I agree with Mattylie, I don’t think their parents were responsible of giving her closure, and as the author said in the book, that was the more selfish act she could have done, she was thinking only about herself. About the kindness and coldness of Tomoya's parents I agree is cultural related, Japanese are not known for showing their emotions, it also explains a lot of the behavior of Rio’s father, but independent on the culture, parents will always be parents and the pain of losing a child will always be unbearable, even if they express it emotionally or not.
prjusto (13)
I thought it connected well in that one of the themes was culture and what is appropriate vs emotion and real feelings. I took it more as suppression of feelings and proper culture instead of being real. Rio wasn't real aka truthful, her father wasn't real, Danny wasn't real, and Tomoyo's parents weren't real.
Shannarchy (4)
Having lived in Japan, I was not surprised by their kindness, in fact it seemed quite normal for them to act cordially and was right within what I would have expected. However, I was surprised that she was never allowed to apologize for killing their son, in its own way, that was pretty rude culturally speaking and so I would not have called that kind. There was no forgiveness given, that to me would have been more unexpected and straight forward kindness would have also been odd. It did, however, seem like an unnecessary addition to the book, rather than something that was meaningfully added. I guess in that aspect, I did find it anticlimactic and I found that it took away from the whole story rather than added to it. I think the addition of Tomoya's parents was important, but I didn't like the way it was done. Apologies for any misspellings, iphones are not conducive to writing in length.
Sooz830 (20)
They responded as their culture dictated, and nothing more. The book does a great job of quickly getting us on Rio's "side" regarding the murder, but at the end of the day, that's what it was. She murdered their son. He was a bully, yes, but he was a child. Their child. Imagine this crime taking place in the U.S. Rio would have been treated much differently.
claudia (10)
I agree with others that the parents were less kind and were more culturally congruent in their response to Rio. What was striking to me, was how they instantly knew who she was and greeted her as such-throughout the book, she makes a strong effort to deny who she is and the times she tries to convince others who she really is, she fails. This is the one instance in the novel where her identity is instantly, seamlessly accepted, and its by the parents of her victim.
mattylie (11)
I don't know that kind is the right word. I don't think they were kind to her. They followed protocol for how they are supposed to act according to culture. They did not give her an opportunity to discuss Tomoya. They went through the procedures one is supposed to follow when a neighbor has lost someone. Then, as with standard protocol, when the tea was finished, so was the conversation. I think the way that they strictly followed cultural procedure actually shows that they were not kind to her. They did not want her in their home, but they felt the need to respond appropriately to the loss of her father. As there appears to be no standard protocol-that I'm aware of-for responding to those who have killed your children, they did not address that and instead did their best to move through the visit.
RemingtonFox (17)
This is a good point. Especially considering the way she was welcomed into other homes and spaces throughout the rest of the book.
TarynWrites (3)
I didn't necessarily think their attitude was driven by kindness, rather, driven by their culture. Especially when they apologized for not having a grieving gift. Toward the end, when it was clear Rio was going to address the elephant in the room, they shut down entirely. I think they responded as their culture dictated that should , but otherwise, had no intention of offering her their forgiveness or acknowledgement. I think it says a lot about how deep the roots of their culture runs.
LaurenMagoo (3)
I was surprised and shocked by the coldness. Obviously this is a sign of Japenense culture but to welcome Rio into their home then avoid any talk of their son was quite odd. Rio was looking for closure, and I feel like she got it but I for one wished for more emotion.
mattylie (11)
She was definitely looking for closure, but to be fair, I'm not sure it was his parents that had to give it to her. I don't know if I would if I were them. She took something from them that they never recovered from. As a result, they don't feel compelled to offer her the closure they never received.
KatrinaJohnson (2)
I didn't interpret their actions as kind at all. It was obvious that she was there to apologize, why else would she be there. I think they did the minimum required by their culture which has a strong emphasis on politeness. They gave her tea and sent her away as soon as they could. Personally, I don't know that I could have even done what they did when confronted with my child's killer, especially since they obviously never had any more children. Forgiveness would be a struggle, so I think they did well when suddenly put in that position, but I think calling it kind is a stretch.
LilRod95 (4)
I wasn't so much surprised as disappointed. I expected some reaction, any reaction. They could have been kind and yet still maybe been more inquisitive about that day & what led up to it. I don't think this scene says much about the nature of her crime but, it says a lot about their culture and that their need to save face carries more weight than feelings & expression.
LilRod95 (4)
I wasn't so much surprised as disappointed. I expected some reaction, any reaction. They could have been kind and yet still maybe been more inquisitive about that day & what led up to it. I don't think this scene says much about the nature of her crime but, it says a lot about their culture and that their need to save face carries more weight than feelings & expression.
LilRod95 (4)
I wasn't so much surprised as disappointed. I expected some reaction, any reaction. They could have been kind and yet still maybe been more inquisitive about that day & what led up to it. I don't think this scene says much about the nature of her crime but, it says a lot about their culture and that their need to save face carries more weight than feelings & expression.
LilRod95 (4)
RemingtonFox (17)
I don't know that it says anything about the nature of her crime so much as the Japanese culture. I can't remember the terms and I don't have the book in front of me, but I think when she visited they were putting up the facade required of them by their culture. They were very short and very fake. I think this was a false interaction and that is why they were so kind. I was really hoping for more honesty, but I thought it was great that the author held onto the Japanese culture for continuity.
Pull Me UnderLiberty Hardy (82)
Discuss With Us

What would you do if you were in Sal's position, and you found out a dark secret about the person you love? Do you think they have hope of reconciliation?

CJade (4)
The most relatable response Sal had, I felt, was when he expressed that Rio never gave him the chance to decide for himself if he wanted to marry a murderer. I identify with that feeling heavily in my own life, and can say that I likely would have responded much like Sal. It's not that Rio keeping it a secret isn't understandable--it makes perfect sense, and in her position I may have done the same thing--but that doesn't negate the feelings of betrayal that would exist for the person on the other side. I do feel, if I were Sal, that I would work to forgive Rio. But as a few people have mentioned, it doesn't seem like Rio came into their marriage with the same devotion that Sal did. I don't think she really became Rio Silvestri until she became a mother, and that is what solidified her as the new American identity she'd been trying to become. Not marrying Sal. Given that, I think it would take a lot of work for the two of them to fully reconcile. Besides all of the work Sal would have to do to reach forgiveness, Rio would also have to choose to prioritize their marriage. I do feel that they would eventually reconcile, but I am not sure how long it would last.
prjusto (13)
As in the last question, I think Sal had a right to be upset. His wife lied for most of her life- fake friends, fake memories, etc. I don't know what I would do if the woman I loved was no longer real.
Shannarchy (4)
In all honesty, I didn't really think about that in a significant way, I suppose that his response was believable enough that I just accepted it. I focused more on the relationships between parents and children when I was reading. It seems like the emphasis was really placed on parent and child relations.
Liz (2)
I really liked that there was no clear-cut ending with regard to their relationship--I think that's as it should be. If he forgave her outright it probably would've come across as false. Something like that takes time. I like to think that he eventually forgives her.
TarynWrites (3)
I was super bummed that there wasn't a resolution to this. I sympathized with Rio, and while I don't condemn her choice, I understand why she wouldn't tell him. You'd think he would be more understanding. He married her for who she is, not who she was. She also makes it a point to identify as a runner, a mother, and a nurse, but never as a wife. I'm not entirely sure she was as devoted to their marriage as he was from the get. Which I guess is fine too. It lets us know that she'll be fine, even if he doesn't forgive her.
mattylie (11)
Good point! She never describes herself as a wife which shows that role may not be important to her. It is a role she took on in an effort to conform to the American way of life, to escape from her past, yet at no point does it feel like a role she took on because she wanted it, and so, she drops it from her description of self.
mattylie (11)
I think I would forgive her. They have so many positive memories together that have nothing to do with what she did as a child. I understand why he would be upset, especially with her having made up her past, but I think she had a right to keep this secret. I'm not sure that we owe everyone full disclosure.
TarynWrites (3)
Those were my thoughts too.
LaurenMagoo (3)
I found Sal's reaction pretty believable. I thought it was interesting that he wasn't angry about Rio hiding the crime but was more angry about the lies she told about her life, her fake friends etc. I would have a hard time realizing that everything my partner told me about their childhood was a lie. I understand not bringing up a childhood murder on a first date but making up people and stories and never telling the truth after years of marriage and the birth of a child is tough. Also, Rio is lying about trying for a baby. So I feel like they lies and problems in the relationship stretch further than just her past. It does seem like there is hope for reconciliation, Sal obviously loves Rio very much and seems willing to work out their problems.
RemingtonFox (17)
By the end of the book I think there was definitely hope of reconciliation. I was so mad at Sal for his lack of empathy. I really feel like he was the more flawed of the two of them in his failure to try and understand why his wife did what she did.
Pull Me Undermattylie (11)
How much must we share?

This book has me questioning how much one must share with her partner. Do our partners have a right to know everything? Is that what they deserve? At what point in life are we allowed to recreate ourselves? Or, can we not? Must we divulge all that is us? In what way are we allowed to have secrets? Must my secret be yours in order to coexist?

I wonder if Rio should have told Sal the truth. Her secret isn't one that many would respond well to. Does she have a right to start over, to reform, to be perceived as anything besides a murderer? How relevant is her past to her present and future-besides it shaping that present and future? When I put myself in Rio's-Chizuru's-shoes, I feel the need to keep things to myself. The need to have the opportunity to change, regenerate. The need to have a normal life, family. When I put myself in Sal's shoes, I think I would want to know something so big. It seems challenging that I would both want to keep it to myself and would want to know. So, how much must we share? What can be rightfully ours and not owed to another?

RemingtonFox (17)
I was honestly really annoyed with Sal for how he responded to Rio when he discovered her past. Yes, she kept a secret from him, but it was like he wasn't even trying to understand why she hid it. I think some secrets are okay in a relationship, sometimes even healthy to have. My personal relationship keeps no secrets. We tell each other everything. But I also know that there are healthy relationships in which secrets are kept for the better of one another. In Rio's situation, I think what she did was understandable. She did something terrible as a child and did not want to be labeled as that for the rest of her life. On the other hand, if Sal had known what happened, would they have ever even dated, let alone married and had a daughter? I can see both sides, but the biggest thing to me in a relationship is dealing with the fallout. I don't think Sal handled it properly, nor do I think he handled it necessarily the way a real person would have. Real people have empathy and can try to understand. He didn't even make the attempt.
mattylie (11)
Also, it seemed out of character for him to be so cold when he seemed to be so empathetic in regards to everything else.
symonebooks (7)
I thought so, too at first, but I think things have just been building up for him. I think she wasn't progressing in the way he wanted her to, like having another kid and moving into a better house. She didn't want those things and she lied about it. He had already known about those things before he found out that she had this whole other life. Basically everything he knows about her is a lie. I think anyone might go a little out of character if you push them far enough.
RemingtonFox (17)
My thoughts exactly.
claudia (10)
I both agree and disagree. I think Sal and her will ultimately reconcile, but I do think it was realistic for him to react the way he did. They built a life together and she held something so massive from him-for him to accept her and forgive her so quickly would not have been authentic. Also, throughout the novel there are moments where it seems there are genuine problems in the marriage-lying about where she wanted to live, having another child- and he claimed to know there was something not right, so he's pretty attentive and those little lies will wear on a person. Then this massive piece made him reconsider all those other issues. I think ultimately it will make their relationship stronger, and the novel, at least in my opinion, seems to end on a positive and hopeful note.
Shannarchy (4)
Yea, I agree with Claudia, that this would have been the reaction I would have expected. It's such a big secret and it would be shocking to find out that someone you know and love has killed another person, even in their youth. I think it would have been a little unrealistic if he had immediately been sympathetic.
Kayla (110)
You pose some really interesting questions. I have spent some time pondering these questions after finishing Pull Me Under this week. I believe that individuals can learn and change as a result of past experiences. In these instances, individuals may feel reticent to share their past lives. Perhaps they feel shame or guilt over past actions, or perhaps dwelling in the past, rather than looking forward, leads only to despondent feelings or stagnation. I do not feel as though individuals are required to share every part of their life with their partner, especially things that may have happened in the past. For example, I was previously married to an individual who seemed to bring out the worst in me. I would not characterize our relationship as healthy, and admittedly, I was not the best partner. However, that relationship helped to shape my perspective on relationships and ultimately made me a much better partner to my (now) fiance. I have not shared every part of that past relationship with my current partner. I do not believe it would add value to our current relationship, and may even create doubt or uncertainty when it is not warranted in our current situation. To this end, I think growth and independence is an individualized process. To this end, I was able to fully understand why Rio chose to reimagine herself and did not share her past experiences with Sal.
prjusto (13)
I wondered if it wasn't just the murder, but that she created a completely fake backstory too- fake friends, fake stories, and essentially a fake life. Who did he fall in love with if half her story to him was a lie?
Pull Me UnderJaime (14)
First BOTM

Oh, I loved this. As my first book of the month experience I have to say, I felt like this was a great choice. The writing was real and avoided cliches and anything sappy...I appreciated the reality that sometimes you don't get closure and things don't work out in such a magic neat, complete perfect package. The darkness of her "black organ" was another real element because I didn't think it was too dark and unrealistic; it was a person who has a soul who struggles with not understanding all of herself and all of her choices. And things aren't so neat and clear cut where it's either a good decision or a bad decision too. So I loved this book...short, sweet, didn't drag, real.

Pull Me UnderKaitlin (22)
Uneven

I ripped through the first 75% of this book in two evenings and really enjoyed it. However it felt like it went on 30 pages too long. The end scene would have been beautiful if it was a movie with all the colors, lights, and music...but it just didn't work for me in print. Overall I really liked the book, but felt it was uneven.

Pull Me UnderSamanttttttha (14)
One Word: WOW

Very good book. I ran across minimal grammatical errors (one on pg.52) and I really liked this book. I lived in Japan and the main character took me back to those days. She was very descriptive and her character was easy to get attached to. I received the book yesterday and finished it today. Great BOTM choice!

Shannarchy (4)
I lived in Japan too, and have been to the area in the book. The writer does an amazing job of describing the aura (I cannot think of a better word currently) of Japan and the uniqueness of Japanese beliefs and cultures. It felt very real once the book moved into Japan.
RemingtonFox (17)
The typos and grammatical errors threw me off track here and there as well. Hopefully on reprint they will fix them. This was definitely a WOW!
Pull Me UnderRemingtonFox (17)

This was my first BoTM club book and it was a blast. From start to finish there were surprises around every corner that had me actually squealing out loud and my fiance looking at me like a nutter. So glad I picked this one to read. I truly enjoyed it and only wish there had been more. I hope there's a sequel!

Pull Me UnderAlex (2)
So glad I chose this!

I had a hard time choosing between this and swimming lessons, but I'm definitely glad I chose this. It was definitely dark, but beautifully written, and I loved the last few pages!

Hannah (33)
The last few pages were great, and I think that it balanced darkness and reality in a really tasteful way