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In a tour-de-force tapestry of science fiction and historical fiction, Andromeda Romano-Lax presents a story set in Japan and Taiwan that spans a century of empire, conquest, progress, and destruction.
2029: In Japan, a historically mono-cultural nation, childbirth rates are at an all-time low and the elderly are living increasingly longer lives. This population crisis has precipitated the mass immigration of foreign medical workers from all over Asia, as well as the development of finely tuned artificial intelligence to step in where humans fall short.
In Tokyo, Angelica Navarro, a Filipina nurse who has been in Japan for the last five years, works as caretaker for Sayoko Itou, a moody, secretive woman about to turn 100 years old. One day, Sayoko receives a present: a cutting-edge robot “friend” that will teach itself to anticipate Sayoko’s every need. Angelica wonders if she is about to be forced out of her much-needed job by an inanimate object—one with a preternatural ability to uncover the most deeply buried secrets of the humans around it. Meanwhile, Sayoko becomes attached to the machine. The old woman has been hiding secrets of her own for almost a century—and she’s too old to want to keep them anymore.
What she reveals is a hundred-year saga of forbidden love, hidden identities, and the horrific legacy of WWII and Japanese colonialism—a confession that will tear apart her own life and Angelica’s. Is the helper robot the worst thing that could have happened to the two women—or is it forcing the changes they both desperately needed?
Romano-Lax explores the inner lives of women in this moving but grim story of hardship and hope. In 2029 Tokyo, Filipina nurse Angelica takes care of Sayoko, an elderly Japanese woman. Sayoko is a week away from her 100th birthday when her son sends an android prototype to assist caring for her. Hiro, as the android calls himself, adapts to Sayoko's needs and threatens Angelica's job more and more with each new task he learns. With Hiro's help, Sayoko recalls old memories and secrets that were once buried. While struggling to stay relevant to Sayoko's care, Angelica faces her own troubles, with her brother taking a dangerous mining job, a loan shark punishing her, and an affair shifting out of its familiar patterns. Although Sayoko and Angelica appear to have few similarities, through Hiro they learn just how alike their hardships are. Romano-Lax proves herself a gifted writer, creating beautiful imagery. However, what begins as a story of human connection and finding joy after trauma takes a rather bleak turn, and the conclusion is unsatisfying. Readers who approach this story with few expectations will find it rewarding, but it's less suited to those who require optimism.