Book Review: 'I Would Meet You Anywhere' is a breathtaking account of an adoptee's search for family
Susan Kiyo Ito always knew she was adopted, but uncovering her birth family became a decadeslong process marked by moments of warm connection and icy divides
Susan Kiyo Ito always knew she was adopted, but uncovering her birth family became a decadeslong process marked by moments of warm connection and icy divides — raw stories compiled into a memoir that’s alternately touching and heartbreaking.
Opening on the fateful moment when Ito is about to meet her birth mother for the first time, “I Would Meet You Anywhere” transcends a title and becomes a refrain throughout the book.
Ito's relationship with Yumi is fraught from the beginning, but her birth mother holds the key to the information she needs to find the other half of her DNA. Ito meets Yumi when and where the latter deems convenient — New Jersey, California, a small Midwestern town; in a house, a hotel, a hospital. And Ito would meet her anywhere.
In the process of finding her birth parents and piecing together her origins, Ito explores the theme of family — and what it means to occupy the various roles within it — pondering the symmetry in the first 17 years she spent living with her mom, Kikuko, taking care of her to the last 27 years of her mom’s life when their roles reversed.
Meanwhile, Yumi flits in and out of the story, leaving the impression of her taking up more space than her physical presence.
Ito is left wondering about the reproductive choices that have shaped her life, starting with her conception. After all, what choice did Yumi have? Her family had started over with nothing after the United States forced them into internment camps, along with an estimated 120,000 other Japanese Americans and Japanese nationals.
There aren’t many things Yumi refuses to talk about, but these topics are frustratingly the most important ones, big question marks that threaten to burn answerless into oblivion.
Unlike Yumi, the author is totally open about her thoughts, feelings and experiences. Ito's prose follows her mood; the default of easy conversational writing becomes stilted when she’s upset, flowing when she’s hopeful.
Part 2 ends in a burst of poetry disguised as prose, an astounding compilation of similes and squishy adjectives that perfectly capture a feeling that rests right on the periphery of language. It’s an absolutely surreal moment of her life described the only way one can truly capture such a confluence of happenstance: with uncanny poetic prose that verges on nonsense, if it weren’t so utterly fitting.
“I Would Meet You Anywhere” is breathtaking. Like a master quilter, Ito is able to find the patterns and fit them together in a beautiful, cohesive story that’s balanced and satisfying, working in tandem to create a blanket of meaning enshrouding an entire life, plus some.
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