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Publisher's Summary

In this brilliant new novel by from Emiko Jean, the author of the New York Times best-selling young adult novel Tokyo Ever After, comes a whip-smart, laugh-out-loud funny, and utterly heartwarming novel about motherhood, daughterhood, and love—how we find it, keep it, and how it always returns.

One phone call changes everything. 

At 35, Mika Suzuki’s life is a mess. Her last relationship ended in flames. Her roommate-slash-best friend might be a hoarder. She’s a perpetual disappointment to her traditional Japanese parents. And, most recently, she’s been fired from her latest dead-end job.  

Mika is at her lowest point when she receives a phone call from Penny—the daughter she placed for adoption 16 years ago. Penny is determined to forge a relationship with her birth mother, and in turn, Mika longs to be someone Penny is proud of. Faced with her own inadequacies, Mika embellishes a fact about her life. What starts as a tiny white lie slowly snowballs into a fully-fledged fake life, one where Mika is mature, put-together, successful in love and her career. 

The details of Mika’s life might be an illusion, but everything she shares with curious, headstrong Penny is real: her hopes, dreams, flaws, and Japanese heritage. The harder-won heart belongs to Thomas Calvin, Penny’s adoptive widower father. What starts as a rocky, contentious relationship slowly blossoms into a friendship and, over time, something more. But can Mika really have it all—love, her daughter, the life she’s always wanted? Or will Mika’s deceptions ultimately catch up to her? In the end, Mika must face the truth—about herself, her family, and her past—and answer the question, just who is Mika in real life? 

Perfect for fans of Kiley Reid’s Such a Fun Age, Gail Honeyman’s Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, and Rebecca Serle’s In Five Years, Mika in Real Life is at once a heart-wrenching and uplifting novel that explores the weight of silence, the secrets we keep, and what it means to be a mother.

©2022 Emiko Jean (P)2022 HarperCollins Publishers

What listeners say about Mika in Real Life

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such a good read!

I had heard a lot of bad news from friends the day I started this book. It was such a good story to be "distracted" by. I loved the characters, the narration. I recommend 100 percent!

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Loved it

I loved the writing, the story, learning about Japanese culture, and the diversity the of the characters. The mothers and daughters were challenged by their own inner conflicts.

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Really heart warming

I laughed out loud, I felt the ache of the characters too. Well written.

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Not Just a book, It's An Experience

If you ever wondered what the adoption experience is like from all sides, this is it. And if you tell it through an authentic Japanese filter, you get this incredible story. Mika is the birth mother. Her relationship with own mother, her teenage daughter Penny & Penny's adoptive parents is what drives the story. Moreover, the support from her best friend and the impact from the rape are the bedrock. This book is artfully curated. Its many layers make it a masterpiece. As an adoptive parent of an adult, it gave me an insight that I hadn't considered. But you don't have to have this involvement to connect to this story.

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Great Story

I really loved this book. It was a great story of self discovery and love. I'll highly recommend it to my friends.

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An adult coming of age story

“Mika In Real Life” is a YA novel trying to be a contemporary fiction novel. The main character, Mika, is 35 years of age, with arrested development and stalled in life. At age of 19 she got pregnant as a freshman in college, and gave up her baby. It was a closed adoption, with the agreement that the adoptive parents would send an annual letter with photos describing her daughter’s life.

Mika is first generation Japanese American. She moved to the United States when she was very young. Her parents are traditional and strict. Mika is nothing but disappointing to them.

As the story begins, Mika is contacted by the child she gave away, Penny. Penny is about to turn 16, and she is curious about her birth mother. Penny was adopted by white American parents and always had questions about her race and background. Thus, at the beginning of the story, Mika violates her own closed adoption agreement and begins a relationship with Penny behind the adoptive parents back. I had difficulty getting over that very large transgression.

Mika has endured trauma which author Emiko Jean uses to show how trauma impacts lives to the extent that one can become stuck. Penny entering into Mika’s life begins Mika’s “coming of age” story. Mika needs to address her relationship with her own mother before she can look at herself as a “mother”.

I wished I would have gone into this with the idea that it’s a YA novel. The personal growth Mika goes through is on par with a kid in their late teens or into their twenties. By the age of 35, I would expect more adult behavior. Penny seemed to be more mature than Mika. I found it difficult to care for Mika because she is so irresponsible. Although, I can see how trauma could do that to a person…affect their emotional development. Still, I found Mika’s behaviors irritating.

As a YA novel, I give it 4 stars for all the themes that author Emiko Jean tackled. As an adult contemporary literature, I give it 2 stars because I had great difficulty being empathetic to Mika, even with all her trauma. It was troublesome to overlook.

I listened to the audio, narrated by Andi Arndt. She was adequately gave voice to the characters in the story.