One phone call can change everything.
Emiko Jean ~ Mika in Real Life
At thirty-five, Mika Suzuki’s life is a mess. Her last relationship ended in flames. Her roommate-slash-best friend might be a hoarder. She’s a perpetual disappointment to her traditional Japanese parents. And, most recently, she’s been fired from her latest dead-end job.
Mika is at her lowest point when she receives a phone call from Penny—the daughter she placed for adoption sixteen years ago. Penny is determined to forge a relationship with her birth mother, and in turn, Mika longs to be someone Penny is proud of. Faced with her own inadequacies, Mika embellishes a fact about her life. What starts as a tiny white lie slowly snowballs into a fully-fledged fake life, one where Mika is mature, put-together, successful in love and her career.
The details of Mika’s life might be an illusion, but everything she shares with curious, headstrong Penny is real: her hopes, dreams, flaws, and Japanese heritage. The harder-won heart belongs to Thomas Calvin, Penny’s adoptive widower father. What starts as a rocky, contentious relationship slowly blossoms into a friendship and, over time, something more. But can Mika really have it all—love, her daughter, the life she’s always wanted? Or will Mika’s deceptions ultimately catch up to her? In the end, Mika must face the truth—about herself, her family, and her past—and answer the question, just who is Mika in real life?
This book was a delight. Managing to combine humour and emotion, it gives a good insight into parenting, cultural identity and growing up.
Characters are well-written and believable. They are also relatable as we’ve all made poor decisions in our lifetime that have hurt the people we love. Mika and Hana’s friendship is one of the best I’ve read recently, as they were supportive and sarcastic, but also honest about each other’s choices.
I do feel like Mika’s life really wasn’t that bad and she was over-dramatising it at times, but then don’t we all? Her choices at university shaped the rest of her life, yet she seems stuck and unable to move past them, despite having a strong support network and artistic talent. Her relationship with her parents is sad while her behaviour with them is extremely immature and selfish at times.
Yet somehow Mika remains likeable and it’s easy to empathise with her, despite wondering why on earth she said what she said to Penny, when it was quite clear that she would want to meet at some point? I do also wonder why she didn’t just take the morning after pill.
There are some questionable dates in the timeline and it is a little silly and far fetched in places – I personally hate characters who lie outrageously with no thought to repercussions. I also wasn’t a huge fan of the romance, but overall it’s a sweet, compelling read. Although it feels more like a YA book than contemporary adult fiction.
Thanks to Michael Joseph and Grazia for the proof copy. Opinions my own.