Kelly Luce’s novel, Pull Me Under has one of the most intriguing covers I’ve seen in a while. Her protagonist, Rio Silvestri is a happily married mother and professional nurse, and that is the mask she wears. To keep the mask in place. Rio has become an avid, compulsive runner. When her father, a world famous violinist dies, she returns to her birthplace in Japan and faces her life behind the mask.
At age 12, Rio is known by the name Chizuru, a half Japanese half American girl, motherless by suicide, chubby, and not quite fitting in. The victim of a sadistic bully, Chizuru finds solace in the attention of her English teacher, Miss Danny. When her beloved teacher pulls away fromher, and the bullying brutally escalates, in a rage, Chizuru stabs her tormentor in the neck with Miss Danny’s letter opener. The blow strikes an artery and the bully, Tomoyu soon bleeds out. Chizuru spends the next seven years in a detention center. At 19, Chizuru changes her name to Rio and immigrates to the U.S. for college and a new life.
Returning to Japan for her father’s funeral, Rio is reunited with Danny and impulsively commits to joining her on a pilgrimage to visit a number of holy temples in the mountains. Danny accepts Rio’s company reluctantly, and the journey becomes one of reconciliation for Rio who is forced deal with the life altering issue of integrating her separate selves
The author spent three years in Japan, and her appreciation for the culture and customs and knowledge the landscape add depth to this imaginative novel.