This is a review of the first 13% of Harmless Like You. Perhaps it's a good story. It was in a list of books I'd found on the theme of family relationships. It was shortlisted for a few awards too. The two main characters are Yuki and her son Jay, whom she abandoned when he was 2 years old. I found it mostly unreadable.
It opens, "The small, female oblong stood in the shadows", and I asked myself how an oblong is female. Such an odd description. The second sentence continues, "Sun buttered the sidewalk". Another description that stopped me reading. How do you butter the sidewalk? I like great slabs on my bread, my partner applies a thin layer and scrapes it thinner. Is my imagination lacking if I'm unable to see a sun-buttered sidewalk?
Still on the first page, I read, "her little hand [...] appeared innocent as a child's", and couldn't think of a more cliched description. Shall I continue? Here's a sentence with a superfluous word: "The crackling noise, like leaves being jumped on". "Crackling" is a noise, I don't need to be told that.
I tried to ignore the descriptions and concentrate on the story, but the words were getting in the way. 4% in I read, "the salt-studded sticks were spread on paper towel", a gratuitous description, since the author had told me in the previous sentence that Yuki's mother had made French fries. It was swiftly followed by "The unfed fist of Yuki's stomach flexed." Perhaps the author is trying her hand at alliteration? For me it added little to the story, and detracted from the imagination. It was a bit like the writer was not only 'showing', as creative writing texts advise, but also 'telling', and both in the same sentence.
At 11% the plot moved forward to 2016 and Yuki's son Jay. When I last saw Jay he was finishing off his dead father's champagne. He was swearing, insulting his wife, very drunk, but able to string together the following thought: "it was a waste to pour all the sweet ethanol-sunshine down the drain".
For this reader it was too full of wordy, ridiculous, incongruous descriptions. They slowed the pace and interfered with the story. Pretty much the last sentence I read was about the cat: "Celeste's mastication filled the silence". I couldn't bring myself to read any further.
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