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A Novel

Bookseller Recommendation


“Maybe it's because I listened to this book on and the author was the narrator, but this novel felt so personal a story, that I kept thinking it was a memoir. The story follows two men, Benson and Mike, who live together and are in a tense, emotionally distant relationship. While Mike's mom is arriving from Japan for a long stay and visit in their home, Mike is getting on a flight to Japan to care for his father, with no plans to return anytime soon. We follow Benson, the boyfriend left behind, as he meets Mike's mother for the first time and struggles to welcome her into their home while her son leaves her behind with a stranger. The awkwardness of the characters ring so true in this story. I loved Washington's writing that allows us to peek into their very private lives, some stories they won't even tell each other. As Benson's story gets more complicated, dealing with his own family and his loyalty to Mike, the story pivots and we get to see Mike in Japan, awkwardly trying to rekindle a very strained relationship with his stoic father who is slowly dying of cancer. Both characters are nuanced, with plenty of learning and change throughout their stories, we also get glimpses into life in Japan, life as immigrants, and the lives of gay men in modern times.”

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Named a Best Book of the Year by The New York Times, The Washington Post, TIME, NPR, Entertainment Weekly, Vanity Fair, O, the Oprah Magazine, Esquire, Marie Claire, Harper's Bazaar, Good Housekeeping, Refinery29, Real Simple, Kirkus Reviews, Electric Literature, and Lit Hub

“A masterpiece. —NPR

“No other novel this year captures so gracefully the full palette of America.The Washington Post

“Wryly funny, gently devastating.” —Entertainment Weekly

A funny and profound story about family in all its strange forms, joyful and hard-won vulnerability, becoming who you're supposed to be, and the limits of love.
Benson and Mike are two young guys who live together in Houston. Mike is a Japanese American chef at a Mexican restaurant and Benson's a Black day care teacher, and they've been together for a few years—good years—but now they're not sure why they're still a couple. There's the sex, sure, and the meals Mike cooks for Benson, and, well, they love each other.

But when Mike finds out his estranged father is dying in Osaka just as his acerbic Japanese mother, Mitsuko, arrives in Texas for a visit, Mike picks up and flies across the world to say goodbye. In Japan he undergoes an extraordinary transformation, discovering the truth about his family and his past. Back home, Mitsuko and Benson are stuck living together as unconventional roommates, an absurd domestic situation that ends up meaning more to each of them than they ever could have predicted. Without Mike's immediate pull, Benson begins to push outwards, realizing he might just know what he wants out of life and have the goods to get it.

Both men will change in ways that will either make them stronger together, or fracture everything they've ever known. And just maybe they'll all be okay in the end.

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