Harmless Like You is the story of two very different people, who also happen to be mother and son, and their eventual findings of both themselves and each other. The story flows backwards and forwards in time, following Yuki’s growth from girl into woman, and the journey of her son to find his mother.
Yuki is a Japanese girl living in New York. She’s not Japanese enough for her parents, and she’s definitely not American enough for everyone else. She wants to be an artist, but she doesn’t know how to make that happen.
Jay runs an art gallery. He is a new father. He doesn’t like his baby and is wondering if he should leave his wife. And his father, who raised him alone from the age of 2 has just died. Inconsiderately, his father has left the family home to Jay’s mother, and Jay now has to visit her to get her to finalise the documents.
This book is beautifully understated, although I struggled from time to time with Yuki as a character. Her emotions are very much her own. I also struggled with Jay’s character as I just didn’t like him (deadbeat dads are my personal kryptonite and rob me of my powers of reason)
Yuki is mystifying, captivating and beautifully human. She feels like a very passive character because her emotions are never really fully explored by the narrator. Her actions keep you guessing about what is hiding in her heart. This also meant she was a constant and often delightful surprise.This story is told through the colour and texture of art – if y0u have any art cred you will probably get some more references from the book than I did.
There are some great observations about parenting and parenthood, and how difficult it can be to be both a parent and a human being.
I’ll be looking forward to seeing more from this debut author.
4 out of 5 shades of grey.