Satellite Love – Genki Ferguson (McClelland & Stewart, 2021)
I received an Advanced Readers e-copy of this book from the publisher and NetGalley. All opinions are my own. Satellite Love was released 2 March 2021.
This is a charmingly weird book. There are four characters whose perspectives we see from at various points and one of them is a satellite. Eventually known as Leo, the satellite starts out in space, operating as, well, a satellite, but later takes on a much different form, becoming intimately involved in the lives of the other characters.
Anna is our primary character, the one human who we view most closely and frequently. Frankly, Ferguson’s handling of Anna’s character is tremendous. Because we are first introduced to Anna through her own perspective and then through the perspective of others sympathetic to her, it takes the reader a while to gain a full view of who she is. Anna is an outsider, the daughter of a white father and a Japanese mother, living in a crumbling city in Japan. Her father is no longer involved, her mother often absent, so Anna is largely alone. Her grandfather lives with her and her mother but is declining rapidly into dementia, unable to remember his own life and often unaware that Anna even exists. Anna is an outsider at school with few friends. When she notices a satellite in the sky, she begins to talk to it, to imagine about it. And the satellite responds.
Soki is the new kid in class, the son of a former Shinto priest who has abandoned his faith. Soki is a little odd as well but better able to adapt than Anna is. When Soki and Anna meet they seem to connect and we see Anna through Soki’s eyes. A little strange but likeable. However, as Soki meets and connects with other kids his age, the reader becomes more aware of the disconnect between the Anna we see and the Anna everyone else sees. Is Anna more sinister than we initially realized? She is a lost and confused teenager but how much danger exists when a young woman loses her grasp on reality?
The fourth perspective we follow is Anna’s grandfather. We delve into his mind only a few times, his confusion about where he is, who Anna is, what happened to his life. It’s disorienting but feels very honest to what life with dementia might be like. It’s also a brilliant contrast to Anna’s separation from society. Anna is separate from those around her due to the abandonment and absenteeism of her parents and the way she turns internally to her own created world. Her grandfather is separated by disease but neither fully understands what’s truly happening around them, nor are those around them able to see the world through their eyes.
There are some strange developments in this novel and I think it worked best knowing very little about what was going to happen. So I don’t want to give too much away or get into the details of what happens to the satellite. The setting is extremely well-executed, a crumbling, unfinished city in Japan. Tied into this as well is a lot of Japanese culture, including Shintoism, a belief system I know very little about. Both Anna and Soki are searching for answers, Soki branching away from his parents for the first time ever.
This is the debut novel from Genki Ferguson and it’s exciting to see a new author take such a bold approach to fiction. I’ll be looking for more from Ferguson.
Satellite Love is my second read to count toward the Asian-Canadian Literature Challenge. Genki Ferguson is a Japanese-Canadian writer. Satellite Love fulfills the prompt “Set in an Asian Country.”