8Books Review: Mika in Real Life by Emiko Jean

Mika Suzuki is standing in a Target of all places when she gets a phone call that will change her life in Emiko Jean’s heartwarming new novel, Mika in Real Life.

Sixteen years earlier, Mika had given up a baby girl in a closed adoption. Now her daughter Penny wants to get to know her. And Mika wants to be worthy of the daughter she thought she’d never get a chance to know. So begins an elaborate web of embellishments about Mika’s life that ultimately will force Mika to confront who she really is and who she really wants to be.

This whirlwind novel reveals so much about mothers and daughters and expectations–expectations we hold about ourselves and expectations we think others have of us. We get to see Mika figure out (or mostly try to at least) who she is to her daughter, to her mother, to the world, and to herself. The pages whirl by as Mika navigates the consequences of her choices: why she gave Penny up, what it meant to give her to a non-Japanese family in Ohio, the flaws of her past relationship, her mother’s disappointment. There are real highs and real lows throughout, moments when you cringe and moments where you’re full-throated cheering for her. And accompanying Mika are a delightful cast of characters, from her best friend Hana (hoarder and ASL interpreter to Pearl Jam) to Penny’s curmudgeonly widowed father Thomas.

Mika in Real Life is a perfect end of summer weekend read.

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About Lily

East Coast Chinese American. I like thick-skinned dumplings and hard-covered books.
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