Light From Uncommon Stars Sept. 2021. 384p. Tr $25.99. ISBN 9781250789068.
Katrina Nguyen is a survivor. A runaway, queer, transgender violinist, Katrina jumps out of her window one night, with a broken rib, a black eye, her hormones, and her violin. She escapes the abuse of her father for what she hopes is the safety of a friend in Los Angeles. Shizuka Satomi is the Queen of Hell and has one more year to deliver her seventh and final soul to Hell, or she will be damned forever. She is a brilliant violin teacher who has taught the likes of Burke, Tourischeva, Eisen, and Choi, taking them as young aspiring musicians and creating stars. Katrina and Shizuka meet on a park bench in El Molino Park, and Shizuka hears something in Katrina’s violin playing. Could she be the seventh soul? Aoki’s writing is as lovely as a violinist’s concerto. At times humorous, interspersed with delicious descriptions of the L.A. food scene, Aoki’s beautiful novel explores Asian and transgender identity in the form of a science fiction novel with Star Trek and Star Wars references aplenty. At its heart, the novel is a metaphor for taking someone broken and giving them the love, tenderness, and time they need to heal.
VERDICT A brilliant story about resilience, vitality, and risking being broken to give everything.

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