Mayumi and the Sea of Happiness – Jennifer Tseng Review

Mayumi and the Sea of Happiness Books may be Mayumi Saito’s greatest love and her one source of true pleasure. Forty-one years old, disenchanted wife and dutiful mother, Mayumi’s work as a librarian on a small island off the coast of New England feeds her passion for reading and provides her with many occasions for wry observations on human nature, but it does little to remedy the mundanity of her days. That is, until the day she issues a library card to a shy seventeen-year-old boy and swiftly succumbs to a sexual obsession that subverts the way she sees the library, her family, the island she lives on, and ultimately herself.

I received a copy of this book from Goodreads Giveaways, but this has not affected my review in any way.

There aren’t a lot of books that have such unlikeable protagonists as this book did. I really wasn’t a fan of this novel. The premise sounded really interesting and I’m usually a fan of dark novels. The idea of a 41 year old librarian and the affair she has with a 17 year old boy is really dark and I was curious as to how Jennifer Tseng would make Mayumi sympathetic to the reader.

The brief answer is – she doesn’t. Mayumi is not sympathetic in the least. She’s a very damaged woman and I ended up disliking her immensely. The woman not only starts a relationship with a 17 year old, but she tells all of her coworkers about her inappropriate crush on him beforehand (with no shame!) She’s old enough to be his mother, but has no qualms about telling everyone she knows that she has feelings for a teenager.

Her friends even try to get her to have feelings for her husband again, but that just annoys Mayumi. She’s trapped in a loveless marriage, but makes no effort to better her situation – just reverts to an affair. Then, to make things worse, not only does she have an affair with the boy, but then becomes friends with his mother! How twisted can you possibly get?!

Mayumi has such an unsatisfactory life that her relationship with her daughter is very unhealthy as well. She’s still breastfeeding her at the age of four. She sleeps with her every night in the same bed and basically does anything her daughter asks.

While the book did have some beautiful writing and a very unexpected ending, Mayumi’s dialogue was very unrealistic, all of the secondary characters were underdeveloped, and Mayumi was so unlikeable that I had a very hard time connecting to this novel. I was extremely disappointed. Do not recommend.


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