When Emma's mother is diagnosed with breast cancer they're forced to uproot from their home in Japan, where Emma has lived almost her entire life, and move to the United States, where she feels incredibly alone and very much an outsider.
After being convinced by her grandmother to start doing something to actively involve herself in the community, Emma begins volunteering at a local long-term care facility -- specifically with a woman suffering from locked-in syndrome. Zena can only communicate using her eyes, but has a passion for poetry. Emma takes over the role of helping Zena to write.
During her weekly visits with Zena, Emma becomes close with another volunteer, Samnang. Through her friendships with both of them, Emma begins to learn how to cope with being away from Japan, as well as how to grieve for her mother's illness, and even starts to feel as if she belongs.
The novel is in verse and though I felt it sometimes dragged and was longer than it needed to be. When the choice arises to return home early to Japan or stay in the U.S. the writing absolutely spoke to me and I finally felt a beautiful connection to Emma. Her pain and heartache at being away from her home felt very real throughout the story, but when she is actually faced with the choice to stay or go, I think Thompsonhit the nail on the head.
The story holds a sweet sensitivity, bordered by anger and resentment. The characters worked well together and the mini-plot lines throughout were woven together nicely.
Thank you to Random House for the review copy!