Release Date: June 4, 2013Published By: Little BrownReview Format: ARCReceived From: HBG Canada for a honest review
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Filled with humor, raw emotion, a strong voice, and a brilliant dog named Sandy Koufax, When You Were Here explores the two most powerful forces known to man-death and love. Daisy Whitney brings her characters to life with a deft touch and resonating authenticity.
Danny's mother lost her five-year battle with cancer three weeks before his graduation-the one day that she was hanging on to see.
Now Danny is left alone, with only his memories, his dog, and his heart-breaking ex-girlfriend for company. He doesn't know how to figure out what to do with her estate, what to say for his Valedictorian speech, let alone how to live or be happy anymore.
When he gets a letter from his mom's property manager in Tokyo, where she had been going for treatment, it shows a side of his mother he never knew. So, with no other sense of direction, Danny travels to Tokyo to connect with his mother's memory and make sense of her final months, which seemed filled with more joy than Danny ever knew. There, among the cherry blossoms, temples, and crowds, and with the help of an almost-but-definitely-not Harajuku girl, he begins to see how it may not have been ancient magic or mystical treatment that kept his mother going. Perhaps, the secret of how to live lies in how she died.
It's hard for me to write this review and properly convey how I felt while reading it. Truthfully I'm not even sure I can untangle the emotions that ran through me enough to get them down. Some are good and some not so much but maybe that's because things may have become a little much for me at times. The reactions became more than I could handle and some of the things that he couldn't let go of pulled at me. There are times where an I wished he would be trapped by an emotional black hole and return only once he had decided to be a little more level headed but in the end he had lost every bit of family that was familiar and his mother.
This was an emotional pretzel. It twisted and turned but then it basically just came back into itself. There would be no truth in my words if I said that I detached completely from the story but I straddled the line instead. So much of my heart did go out to Danny and the large amount of loss he had gone through but then some of his methods for dealing with it rubbed at me in the wrong way but I will admit a small part of me understood because of knowing people that have tried to rid themselves of pain that way. Parts of me believe that because I was not a teenage boy and because I couldn't quite grasp some of the reasons for reactions it was like watching Danny through a window. Everything was well paced though and what I learned as I went was that there was a reason behind every discovery.
Danny was not someone I could relate to but there was a measure of sympathy that grew within me for him as I read. Losing his mother has made him detached and in turn he has become a shell that is looking for something that will fill the voids her death has caused. This is a boy that is lost and angry with the hand he was dealt and the time he lost with separation. Before he decides to take the leap and journey to where his mother spent many of her last months trying to heal (Japan) he basically has a melt down. Given the amount of pressure he was under and his loss this was a moment that my heart broke for him but at the same time I had wished he would hold it together to get out of there.
The journey that Danny has in Japan is kind of dizzying. It seems that the information he finds both brings him closer to his mother and creates something that he didn't see coming. This book shows that sometimes when you o looking for answers you may not get the ones that you want but you will get what you need. The writing that was on the proverbial wall was not always shocking but painted out a much different story than what I had ever expected. There was more loss and secrets than expected and people that were tied into the story in unexpected ways. A trip to Japan is not what you would consider a traditional informational journey but for Danny it was his chance to be torn apart again and heal in a way he could have never expected.
When I picked this one up I honestly had a box of kleenex ready but it never turned into the emotional tear jerker that I had expected. There was moments that made my heart ache a little and wish Danny the answers and feeling that he so desperately seeked from answers about his mother and her time away from him. I think that though the writing was simple, the pacing was good and ultimately it was the journey that brought more life to the book. The answers that came sporadically brought confusion at times but every piece of the puzzle was necessary. If you are a fan of contemporary fiction pick this one up because it all in all is a heartwarming and breaking tale.
I put my arms behind my head and consider
what else can I get away with? Is there a statute of limitations on how long you can have a free pass after your mom dies? Because smashing that car is the only thing that's made me feel in weeks.
I pulled it off because I got the new I was top of the class three days after she became ash. And I'm flesh, and I don't want to be here on this stage. I want to lie down on a raft, close my eyes, and let the little white pill take me away, float me off into the happy land where I feel no pain.
"That's great," I say to Mike, but it's a lie. Because it's not great that all the woman I know, or knew, like to keep secrets.
You would think I'd be an expert, a professional griever at this point. That this would be second nature. That this would be my best subject, the class I excel at.