We came from a family of writers. Alas, we can't write. So we blog about our love for books instead.
This is the first book by Daisy Whitney that I've read, and I'm glad I did. Told from a male point of view, the story is beautifully handled, juxtaposing Danny's humdrum LA, where he barely knows how to function after his mom dies, with the buzzing, colorful, alternately crowded and serene Tokyo, where he slowly learns how to live again. More than a story about death, this is a story about loss and the different ways of coming to terms with loss.
Handled by a less adept author, Danny could easily have been just another angst-ridden teenager, faced with one misfortune after another: his dad dies in an accident, his mom has cancer and passes away two months before he graduates as high school class valedictorian, the love of his life breaks up with him with no explanation. Despite all the tragedies in his young life, Danny is an engaging storyteller, painting vivid pictures of things he loves, and things he's lost.
For me, the best moments of this book are when Danny talks about things he remembers from the past. A dog named Sandy Koulfax, who teaches him that he can still play ball even if he lost his pitching arm. A father who taught him how to catch spiders, how to fix stuff around the house, and how to get girls. A mother who created a little ceremony to help him commemorate the end of his baseball days. An ex-girlfriend whom he's loved since third grade. Each of Danny's memories are captivating, and we understand why he's so broken up about what he's lost.
Danny's journey towards acceptance has its own striking moments and surprising revelations. Finding a crazy Japanese girl who becomes his BFF. A conversation with his mom's spiritual doctor. A reunion with his adopted Chinese sister. Coming to terms with what happened to his relationship with Holland, his ex. Piece by piece, the author shows us how Danny puts himself together again.
There is no magic formula, there is no sudden stroke of good luck that changes everything for Danny. In When You Were Here, coming to terms with what life deals you is a process, and it's beautiful.