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Books for Long Winter Nights

Author: Grace Talusan
Newspaper, blog or website: Tufts Now
Date: Dec 8 2015

This debut novel explores a year in the life of Mayumi, a married librarian in her 40s living on an island off the coast of Massachusetts with a young daughter. Her husband sleeps in a different bedroom, although he might as well be sleeping on the mainland; the distance between the couple is vast. Mayumi takes joy in raising her daughter, but also lies about what time she is expected at work, so that she can have a few extra minutes to herself. She accepts what her life has become, which is why it’s so exciting to meet Mayumi on the day that everything changes, when she meets the young man, an unnamed 17-year-old high school senior, who catches her interest and then captures her attention as they engage in a taboo love affair. The first-person narrator is honest, self-aware and well-read, thinking of books, like Nabokov’s Lolita, as she struggles to make sense of her life. The novel follows what happens between Mayumi and the young man, and goes beyond that to what happens after. The novel is compelling and beautifully written. Once I started reading, it was difficult to stop. Mayumi and the Sea of Happiness is about a woman risking everything for pleasure, but it’s also about the consolation of other pleasures, such as great books and unexpected friendship.

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