In addition to the novel’s all-the-feels poignancy, Light From Uncommon Stars is also very, very funny ... Without straining the metaphor too much, Aoki gets every element of mise-en-scène note-perfect, and her prose is as exacting and precise as the techniques Shizuka is trying to impart to her young charge. Readers can feel the steam emanating from the kitchens of Aoki’s San Gabriel Valley noodle joints, hear the scrape of a freshly rosined bow across recalcitrant strings and experience the acute anguish of having one foot anchored in one world while the other is desperately trying to move forward.
This warm, hopeful novel features this entertaining tangle of women all trying to find their true place in a difficult world. Katrina’s passion and hard-working determination drive the novel; she stuns Satomi with her intuitive, self-taught playing of video-game-inspired pieces even as she deals with the effects of trauma from the domestic, verbal, and sexual abuse she’s endured. Aoki’s novel is an exciting, wild web of an adventure, a unputdownable book about music, found family, and identity. Diving into the tough subjects, Aoki’s book emerges with a joyful, queer, radical ballad of a story that will appeal to fans of TJ Klune’s The House in the Cerulean Sea (2020).
Used to rejection and hatred, Katrina can’t bring herself to trust the offer of private violin lessons from a striking stranger. But as her life gradually begins to intertwine with the lives of Shizuka, Lan, and other colorful, well-drawn characters, everyone receives unexpected gifts of tenderness. Musicians selling their souls to hell shouldn’t fit in the same story as alien doughnut makers building a stargate, but somehow all these elements combine to create something wild and beautiful ... Filled with mouthwatering descriptions of food and heart-swelling meditations on music, this novel is an unexpected gift.