With her newly completed PhD in astronomy in hand, twenty-eight-year-old Grace Porter goes on a girls’ trip to Vegas to celebrate. She’s a straight A, work-through-the-summer certified high achiever. She is not the kind of person who goes to Vegas and gets drunkenly married to a woman whose name she doesn’t know…until she does exactly that.
This one moment of departure from her stern ex-military father’s plans for her life has Grace wondering why she doesn’t feel more fulfilled from completing her degree. Staggering under the weight of her father’s expectations, a struggling job market and feelings of burnout, Grace flees her home in Portland for a summer in New York with the wife she barely knows.
In New York, she’s able to ignore all the annoying questions about her future plans and falls hard for her creative and beautiful wife, Yuki Yamamoto. But when reality comes crashing in, Grace must face what she’s been running from all along—the fears that make us human, the family scars that need to heal and the longing for connection, especially when navigating the messiness of adulthood.
When I read the synopsis for this novel, I was immediately hooked and that feeling continued from beginning to end of reading it. After just putting the book down after reading it in one sitting, I have a lot of thoughts – and spoiler-alert – they’re all good thoughts. To stop this being a big dump of emotions and screaming, I’m going to split this review into my favourite parts of the book.
TW: self-harm, depression, anxiety
I have to start off by telling you how amazing Grace is as a character. It’s so refreshing to read about a character in their late 20’s who still hasn’t got their shit together – she’s messy, a little lost and petrified of failure which sums me up completely. We also explore what it means to be a Black and a lesbian in the STEM field and how Grace was instilled from a young age that she would have to work twice as hard to achieve the same as her white counterparts. Throughout the novel, you go on an entire journey with her as she finds her place in the world and it gave me hope that I can find mine too. Grace also battles with depression and anxiety throughout the novel and as a person who struggles with my mental health in these aspects too, it was well-executed, sometimes too well if anything!
“They are her family, the ones she found and made and kept.”
If you know me, you know one of my favourite tropes in fiction is the found-family trope and this book has it in spades. Grace is surrounded by family she has made herself, and a queer family at that – from her roommates, Ximena and Agnes, her work friend’s and adopted siblings, Raj and Meera to her wife, Yuki and her three male roommates (who I really need a spin-off novel with as they all go monster-hunting!) The love just spilled from this book and despite going on our journey of self-discovery, Grace’s family were never far from her thoughts. Each of these characters also had their own thoughts, stories and identities – from Yuki loving people and their stories, to Ximena and Agnes maybe being in love, to Raj and Meera wanting to break away from their family business. They didn’t exist just to fuel Grace’s story, they existed as their own entities to which Grace would be lost without.
Despite the romance being unconventional – getting married to a stranger and then having to ‘meet’ again for the first time – it was just beautiful. Grace with her logical mind and Yuki with her head full of stories just melded beautifully and it was a joy to fall in love with them as they fell in love with each other. I know some people have said they wanted more romance between the girls but I see it as them getting to know each other as people first but not being any less in love.
“It can just be a good thing for right now, the connection between two girls on opposite coasts. A siren and the one who stands ankle-deep at the shore.”
Another aspect I loved that the book explored was Grace’s relationship with her parents who are divorced, as well as her stepmother. Grace feels extreme pressure to live up to her father’s expectations of her, especially as he is ex-military and very strict. Her mother is distant as she’s always travelling and Grace dreams of the simple and happy life she had growing up on an orange grove. It was refreshing to see that these difficulties were not swept under the carpet and we explore the relationships as they develop.
Overall, this book will stay with me for a long time. I saw myself in Grace who’s fear of failure stopped her even wanting to think about her future. I yearned for the love and warmth in found-family and I am very grateful this story exists.
Lots of Love,