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What's Left of Me Is Yours: A Novel

What's Left of Me Is Yours: A Novel

by Stephanie Scott

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Overview

"Each chapter of this enrapturing novel is elegantly brief and charged with barely contained emotion." —New York Times Book Review

A gripping debut set in modern-day Tokyo and inspired by a true crime, for readers of Everything I Never Told You and The Perfect Nanny, What's Left of Me Is Yours charts a young woman's search for the truth about her mother's life—and her murder.


In Japan, a covert industry has grown up around the wakaresaseya (literally “breaker-upper”), a person hired by one spouse to seduce the other in order to gain the advantage in divorce proceedings. When Satō hires Kaitarō, a wakaresaseya agent, to have an affair with his wife, Rina, both assume it will be an easy case. But Satō has never truly understood Rina or her desires and Kaitarō's job is to do exactly that—until he does it too well. While Rina remains ignorant of the circumstances that brought them together, she and Kaitarō fall in a desperate, singular love, setting in motion a series of violent acts that will forever haunt her daughter’s life.

In an engrossing dual narrative inspired by a true crime, Stephanie Scott exquisitely renders the affair and its intricate repercussions. As Rina’s daughter, Sumiko, fills in the gaps of her mother’s story and her own memory, Scott probes the thorny psychological and moral grounds of the actions we take in the name of love, asking where we draw the line between passion and possession.


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780525565512
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 06/22/2021
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 175,192
Product dimensions: 5.16(w) x 7.96(h) x 0.74(d)

About the Author

Stephanie Scott is a Singaporean and British writer who was born and raised in South East Asia. She read English Literature at York and Cambridge and holds an M.St in Creative Writing from Oxford. Scott was awarded a BAJS Toshiba Studentship for her anthropological work on her novel What's Left of Me Is Yours and has been made a member of the British Japanese Law Association as a result of her research. What's Left of Me Is Yours was named a Brooklyn Book Festival Debut of the Year and a Guardian / Observer Best Debut of 2020. She is based in Singapore and London.

Read an Excerpt

WHAT I KNOW
 
· I was raised by my grandfather, Yoshi Sarashima.
· I lived with him in a white house in Meguro, Tokyo.
· In the evenings he would read to me.
· He told me every story but my own.
 
My grandfather was a lawyer; he was careful in his speech. Even when we were alone together in his study and I would perch on his lap tracing the creases in his leather armchair, or later, when I sat on a stool by his side, even then, he had a precision with words. I have kept faith with that precision to this day.
 
Grandpa read everything to me—Mishima, Sartre, Dumas,Tolstoy, Bashō, tales of his youth and duck hunting in Shimoda, and one book, The Trial, that became my favorite. The story begins like this: “Someone must have been telling lies about Josef K.”
 
When we read that line for the first time, Grandpa explained that the story was a translation. I was twelve years old, stretching out my fingers for a world beyond my own, and I reached out then to the yellowed page, stroking the written characters that spoke of something new. I read the opening aloud, summoning the figure of Josef K.: a lonely man, a man people would tell lies about.
 
As I grew older, I began to argue with Grandpa about The Trial. He told me other people fought over it too, that they fight about it even today—over the translation of one word in particular—verleumdet.
To tell a lie. In some versions of the story, this word is translated as “slander.” Slander speaks of courts and accusations, of public reckoning; it has none of the childhood resonance of “telling lies.” And yet, when I read this story for the first time, it was the translator’s use of “telling lies” that fascinated me.
 
Lies, when they are first told, have a shadow quality to them, a gossamer texture that can wrap around a life. They have that feather-light essence of childhood, and my childhood was built on lies.
 
*
 
The summer before my mother died, we went to the sea. When I look back on that time, those months hold a sense of finality for me, not because that was the last holiday my mother and I would take together, but because it is the site of my last true memory.
 
Every year, as the August heat engulfed Tokyo, my family piled their suitcases onto a local train and headed for the coast. We went to Shimoda. Father remained in the city to work, but Grandpa Sarashima always came with us. Each time, he stopped at the same kiosk in the station to buy frozen clementines for the train, and in the metallic heat of the carriage Mama and I would wait impatiently for the fruit to soften so we could get at the pockets of sorbet within. Finally, when our chins were sticky with juice, Mama would turn to me in our little row of two and ask what I would like to do by the sea, just she and I, alone.
 
Our house on the peninsula was old, its wooden gateposts warped by the winds that peeled off the Pacific. As we climbed towards the rocky promontory at the top of the hill, the gates,
dark and encrusted with salt, signaled that my home was near: Washikura—Eagle’s
Nest, the house overlooking the bay, between Mount Fuji and the sea.
 
Our country is built around mountains; people are piled up in concrete boxes, cages. To have land is rare, but the house in Shimoda had belonged to my family since before the war, and afterward my grandfather fought to keep it when everything else was lost.
 
Forest sweeps over the hills above the house. I was not allowed up there alone as a child, so when I looked at my mother on the train that summer she knew immediately what I would ask to do. In the afternoons, Mama and I climbed high on the wooded slopes above Washikura. We watched the tea fields as they darkened before autumn. We lay back on the rocky black soil and breathed in the sharp resin of the pines. Some days, we heard the call of a sea eagle as it circled overhead.
 
Grandpa knew the forest but he never found us there. At four o’clock each afternoon, he would venture to the base of the hillside and call to us through the trees. He shouted our names: “Rina!”
“Sumi!” Together, we nestled among the pines, giggling, as grandfather’s voice wavered and fell.
 
I often heard Grandpa calling before Mama did, but I always waited for her signal to be quiet. On our last afternoon in the forest, I lay still, feeling the soft and steady puff of my mother’s breath against my face. She pulled me against her and her breathing quieted and slowed. I opened my eyes and stared at her, at the dark lashes against her cheeks. I took in her pallor, her stillness. I heard my grandfather begin to call, his voice thin and distant. I snuggled closer, kissing her face, pushing through the coldness with my breath. Suddenly she smiled, her eyes still closed, and pressed a finger to her lips.
 
We no longer own our home, Washikura, on the outskirts of Shimoda; Grandpa sold it years ago. But when I go there today, climbing up through the undergrowth, I can feel my mother there beneath the trees. When I lie down on the ground, the pine needles sharp under my cheek, I imagine that the chill of the breeze is the stroke of her finger.

Reading Group Guide

1. Before reading the novel, had you heard of the wakaresaseya or “marriage breakup” industry? What do you think are the risks of this industry being allowed to operate? How does this relate to honey trapping in your own culture?

2. From the beginning, photography plays a large role in the novel. How does photography influence Sumiko’s telling of her mother’s story?

3. Sumiko notes early in the novel that the best lies are close to the truth. How does Kai prove this theory as he tells Rina about himself?

4. Sumiko observes that she struggles to imagine her mother as a young person, an individual separate from her motherhood: “When I think of her, it is as my mother, and I cannot picture her any other way.” Have you ever heard a story about a family member and struggled to reconcile this with your own image and experience of him or her?

5. This novel revolves around a murder, but we learn the identity of the alleged murderer relatively early in the story. How does that affect your reading of the events leading up to the crime?

6. Almost every character in the novel struggles to balance multiple roles: parent, lover, child, professional, etc. Who do you think struggles the most?

7. How do physical objects trigger memories and emotions for Sumiko and Yoshi after Rina’s death? Do you have any talismans that remind you of people you’ve lost?

8. How is the Japanese justice system similar to or different from your own? What do you think of Yurie Kagashima’s defense of Kai? Is it a fair defense?

9. What do you think Sumiko means when she says that every member of her family, including her, is guilty of her mother’s death?

10. How do you think knowing the full truth about her mother’s death will affect Sumiko’s life after the action of the novel concludes? What do you think will be the significance of her “choice” at the very end? And is it the right one?

11. Is the law a character in its own right?

12. Are the locations in the novel characters in their own right? How do they affect and shape the narrative?

13. What do you think of the novel’s title? How does it apply to all the characters?

14. What economic and societal constraints are faced by the men and women in the novel? Have any of these issues featured in your own life?

15. How does the novel depict the tension between personal desire and the pressure to conform to social norms?

16. The novel is a mediation of all the different forms of love. What does love mean to you? Who from the book best exemplifies this definition of love?

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