Hi friends! I’m here to share a review for a book I actually listened to on audio! I know: another audiobook finished? I don’t know who I am either.
Rumi Seto spends a lot of time worrying she doesn’t have the answers to everything. What to eat, where to go, whom to love. But there is one thing she is absolutely sure of-she wants to spend the rest of her life writing music with her younger sister, Lea. Then Lea dies in a car accident, and her mother sends her away to live with her aunt in Hawaii while she deals with her own grief. Now thousands of miles from home, Rumi struggles to navigate the loss of her sister, being abandoned by her mother, and the absence of music in her life. With the help of the �boys next door�-a teenage surfer named Kai, who smiles too much and doesn’t take anything seriously, and an eighty-year-old named George Watanabe, who succumbed to his own grief years ago-Rumi attempts to find her way back to her music, to write the song she and Lea never had the chance to finish. Aching, powerful, and unflinchingly honest, Summer Bird Blue explores big truths about insurmountable grief, unconditional love, and how to forgive even when it feels impossible.
First of all, to answer your unasked question, no, I am not sure why I chose to read a book wthat clearly has “summer” in the title in the middle of winter. Second of all, I was not prepared for how good this book would actually be!
TW: Death, heavy grief, a panic attack
Akemi Dawn Bowman has crafted one of the most incredible contemporary stories I’ve read. Her portrayal of loss, grief, and coming to terms with something so life-changing as losing a loved one resounded so poignantly in me. Her writing was simultaneously brimming with the gorgeous imagery of Hawaii, and acknowledging the dark chaos within our main character Rumi.
“Grief is a monster – not everyone gets out alive, and those who do might only survive in pieces. But it’s a monster that can be conquered, with time.”– Akemi Dawn Bowman
Speaking of Rumi, her character was amazing. Her relationship with her sister Lea? It was so loving, though not without its own fights. She had to deal with survivor’s guilt, a strained relationship with her mother, and the fact that she didn’t always treat Lea right.
And the emphasis on music! It was so overwhelmingly beautiful, and emotional. I don’t even know how to put it into words. Rumi’s struggle to finish the lyrics she and Lea had been in the midst of writing was so potent.
Kai and Mr. Watanabe’s characters were so amazing. Each so different, but played their own role in Rumi’s life. Kai’s caring carelessness, and Mr. Watanabe’s not-so-grumpy nature were each so endearing in their own way. They both did an excellent job of furthering the plot with their own characters, so we didn’t just stay at a standstill with Rumi the whole book.
There were also flashbacks to before the accident which I really liked. I feel like it solidified Lea’s character.
My only complaint is minor, and it’s that at times it got a little slow. It’s understanble though, as this is more character-driven than plot focused.
And that’s it! This is honestly such a beautiful book if you go in blind, and I’m very happy that I read it! I can’t wait to read more of Bowman. Tell me: what’s a hard-hitting contemporary YOU loved?