What initially seems like a negative view of marriage, commitment and fidelity becomes so much more in Itami’s skilled hands and piercing gaze. Fault Lines is full of laugh-out-loud, irreverent humor, as well as heartstoppingly poignant, yet seemingly incidental, wisdom. All of the inner yearnings and tribulations of Mizuki are laid bare, offering one of the fullest, most thorough depictions of a character I have ever read. Although the book is undeniably funny, it reads as if Itami has wrung out every possible meaning, perception and argument from every last word. Every line here is razor-sharp, chosen with precision, resulting in a deceptively clever, emotionally wise and truly heartbreaking novel.
What is the cost of a mother’s desire? In her debut novel, Fault Lines, Emily Itami explores this question with wit and poignancy ... Itami’s prose is distant, maybe inspired by the character’s remove from her own life ... Itami’s descriptions of spring in Japan are to be savored ... I was once told by an editor that the best stories offer an 'A' and a 'B' ending, but then delight a reader with a surprising but inevitable 'C.' Sadly, Itami’s novel ends with a dull option 'B.' I found myself wishing Mizuki could seek pleasure and adventure freely.
While some readers might be drawn in by the novel’s potential for blush-worthy bedroom scenes, the few that exist happen off page. Instead, what’s intriguing about Fault Lines is its shrewd commentary on Japan’s societal expectations of women as either sex objects or dutiful mothers.
Debut novelist Emily Itami has crafted a complicated romance with immense empathy for all its characters and their flaws. Following the lead of a sharp and charming protagonist Mizuki, readers absorb a wonderfully nuanced take on Tokyo life ... Fault Lines is a romantic story full of wit and charm, lovingly exposing the cracks in each of its characters' facades. In the end, it shakes each one until they have no choice but to confront their own choices.
Emily Itami’s highly readable debut uses infidelity to consider motherhood, cultural pressure and the end of youth ... The writing is direct and shaded with black comedy ... the book can be polished off in a sitting, but it punches above its weight in its themes and the maturity with which it examines them, such as how love intertwines with or comes up against duty, and the feeling of having lost a part of oneself. Although she situates these ideas in a very specific social context, Itami manages to make them universal.
[A] thoughtful debut ... While a somewhat pat ending feels unworthy of the novel’s provocative premise, Itami makes palpable Mizuki’s loneliness and her need to feel seen. Itami’s brave, frank portrayal of Japan’s societal expectations of women is worth a look.