Title: On Days Like This
Author: Mary Faderan
This imaginative and unusual book explores the story of Mary Enji Scott, a young, Asian-American woman who lands a research job in Yale after she graduates. But everything in Yale isn’t as it appears, as most of her coworkers are there with one purpose—to eliminate her or make sure she gets so depressed she’s of no earthly good to anyone, as her family and bloodline are more important than she ever imagined.
Capturing a version of historical Yale in the 1980s, the book creates a blend of covert operations, the Japanese mafia, and everyday life that is definitely unique. Mary is presented as a naive, lonely young girl who soon discovers she knows little about dealing with men, to say nothing of the trouble stalking her.
Some readers might find her a bit needy, as she quickly relies on Andrew, a young man she meets the day of her interview at Yale, but she does seem capable of making her own decisions from time-to-time and even stands up to Andrew at one point.
The narration is somewhat light-hearted, focusing more on dialogue than detailed description. When the setting is described, it can be done in a manner that seems somewhat cliche, similar to the dialogue, but both can add to the frivolous or tongue-in-cheek nature of the story. Similarly, the spies who are assigned to cause trouble to Mary seem incapable of pulling off too much—though unkind, they aren’t very successful, and they seem to spend a fair portion of the book talking about their plans, how they fail, and what they might possibly do next.
There are portions of the book which are filled with action, but what is happening and why isn’t always clear. In many ways, the story reads a bit like a farcical version of a spy story, where nothing is completely serious and the characters, action, and plot dances past the reader in phrases and scenes in a whirl of words. There certainly are readers who will enjoy this type of story.
The book could benefit from some editing, as there are grammar and spelling errors which take away from the reading experience. Similarly, the book seemed to show Mary’s Asian heritage in a fairly stereotypical way, commenting on how people wouldn’t accept her and how science was valued by her culture, leading her to go into the field for pragmatic reasons rather than because she truly loved the subject, but this could be interpreted as fitting the effervescent feeling of the story, suggesting a version of reality that never becomes too deep or too thoughtful.
Perfect for those looking for a story light on reality and rich in the fanciful, this tale is a quick, easy read that nicely blends action with the everyday life of a young, working woman. The author maintains a consistent tone throughout, and the characters are varied, each one like a different image in a poem. With plenty of unanswered questions to hurry readers on to the next page, the novel reads a bit like an action-packed dream.
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