Thank you so much to Kate at Orion Books for giving me the opportunity to be involved with the casual aspect of the release tours for What’s Left of Me Is Yours, the stunning debut by Stephanie Scott. Set in Tokyo, told from multiple perspectives, and ready to captivate you, What’s Left of Me Is Yours is a murder mystery, a love story, and an observation of the criminal system – all inspired by a true crime.
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, he assumes 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.
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.
I was utterly blown away by both the novel itself, and the audio narration. Narrator and book have been matched flawlessly, with absolute perfection, both complimenting one another. What’s Left of Me Is Yours was devastating to listen to in parts, but at the same time impossible to walk away from. I had no knowledge of 1990s Japan, or of the “breaker-upper” profession before I listened to this, and it didn’t impact the enjoyment at all; everything is explained very clearly, but in clean lines, without it feeling forced or inserted purely for explanation. This same point also applies to the differences in the legal system from those we might be familiar with in our own countries; anything that we might need to know, we are informed of in a way that supports the story, rather than being a simple bolt on.
As I was asked to pay specific attention to the audio side, narrator Hanako Footman deserves so much praise. Although I advocate reading this book in some form or another, I would be recommending the audiobook version to absolutely anyone debating reading it. Hanako brings her enchanting, almost hypnotic, voice to a tale that has similar qualities, and the power that creates is unbelievable. I listened to a large portion of this laying down with an eye mask on whilst recovering from Corona, and I must say it was the most relaxed I felt at any point.
The world building that goes on to make this book work so well is not huge things, but endless little things. The descriptions of the bell in a temple, the smell of pork buns on market stalls. The greed of a husband who married for money rather than love. Where sometimes jumping through time and perspective can make a story stilted, it has the opposite impact here, allowing us to truly get to know all characters involved, processing the events maybe harder because of this.
I’m honestly struggling to put into worlds just how sublime this book is. Tantalizing beautiful and full of moments that will haunt you long after the book finishes, this story of family love, romantic love, possessive love, and ultimately, redemptive love, is one of the most powerful books you will ever encounter.