Penny Calvin has questions.
Placed for adoption sixteen years ago, she’s desperate to get to know the mother she’s never met.
Mika Suzuki just wants to hide.
Jobless, single and living in a chaotic flat share, she can’t bear her daughter knowing her life is a mess. So, when Penny gets in touch, Mika tells a few white lies, pretending to have it all – a career, partner and money.
Keeping up the pretence over the phone is one thing. But when Penny and her widowed adoptive father Thomas spring a visit on Mika, things get complicated.
By coming clean about the secrets in her past, will Mika finally get the life she dreamed of?
Or will she lose it all?
*This ARC was sent to me by Michael Joseph Books, an imprint of Penguin. Please read our disclaimer policy for more information
Let’s kick off 2024 reviews with one of my favourite reads of last year.
A book that deserves so much more praise.
So last year in my determination to read 100 books, I decided to turn to the books on my shelf that were just SITTING there. Mika in Real Life was one of those books. I’m not sure how long it has been sitting on my shelves but I can tell you…
It was a while.
Anyways, once I finished reading it, I was so angry. Because this is a book I WISH I’d read when it had just came out. I had so much fun and I really couldn’t put it down.
This book delves into themes of motherhood, identity, womanhood, romance, friendships and so much more. It was the epitome of complex relationships from parents, children and friends. And the main character was undoubtedly a train wreck from beginning to end. I actually read most of the scenes half mortified, half in disbelief at some of the things she’d do.
“That’s the whole point of emotions. The least you expect them, the more intense they are. That’s the beauty of feeling.”
You absolutely want Mika to win. She deserves it. But her choices are SO questionable. It makes you want to shake her but also, the author does a really good job in making her relatable. You empathise with her struggling work life. If you’re a creative, you’ll understand. Mika really struggled with figuring out what she wants to do against what she should do. Being a creative in a capitalist world can be so overwhelming. Pursuing your dreams constantly feels like a risk and there’s a never ending pit of nerves as you question every decision you make towards it. Reading about Mika felt comforting in ways, despite the lying, but you completely get why she felt as though she should. Her love for Penelope meant she just wanted her to feel proud of her mother.
“You can’t rely on others for your self-worth…that has to come from within.”
My favourite thing about this book was it’s look into motherhood and adoption. It was so gut-wrenchingly beautiful the way Mika, Penelope and her adoptive mother’s relationships are portrayed. This is mirrored against Mika’s relationship with her own mother. And you really begin to see how motherhood is such a personal, emotional and beautiful journey. Motherhood isn’t determined by genetics or a dutiful role to fulfil because you’ve pushed an entire human being out.
Emiko Jean shows that love does that. Love determines motherhood. And love doesn’t end just because you aren’t in someone’s life. People have different ways of showing their love. But there’s truly nothing like a mother’s love.
I think it’s important to note that Mika chose to love Penelope despite her decision to give her up. And there was something so beautiful about the way Emiko shows that someone can love transcends time. I think there was a certain level of determination from Mika to have a completely different relationship with her daughter, then the one she had with her own mother. Mika’s mother explores the immigrant experience, from the fears and alienation to the determination of a better life.
“How mothers see their daughters as echos, as do-overs, as younger versions of themselves who might have the life they didn’t or have the same life as they did, but better. But children aren’t second chances…”
It’s a perseverance that I’ll always admire because I can only imagine how difficult it must have been.
Alongside, this themes of motherhood, there is a secondary plot about romantic love which was sweet and carefully done between Mika and Penelope’s adoptive father. I did end the book wanting to know more about Penelope and Mika’s relationship but I think that’s because I enjoyed the book immensely and didn’t want it to end.
I definitely recommend picking this book up, if you’re looking for an immersive read that you’ll relate to and not want to put down! It has a 2000 rom-com feel to it and if you’re fan of those movies, you’ll love this book!