Emily Harada lives a structured yet unconnected life, a solitary existence that suits her perfectly. Her architectural work focuses on restoring historic houses and her personal life focuses on raising her teenage son, Jesse. Emily’s limited social needs are met by her friendship with Sylvia; she has chosen to live contentedly in her singlehood after divorcing Jesse’s father, Stewart.
Even contented solitude can begin to wear after a while. Emily begins to question her choices, right around the time when Jesse starts to act like a typical teenager and an attractive former student reenters her life.
Kim Moritsugu’s fourth novel, The Restoration of Emily, showcases a woman in middle life who at times appears bewildered by everything around her. Even though Emily has a take-no-prisoners attitude, calls a spade a spade, and has at times had difficulty relating to customers and colleagues, she faces the next phase of her life a bit off-center.
As Jesse becomes a true teenager, distant and unwilling to talk to “Em,” her walls appear to falter. As much as Emily is written as a loner, she still counts on her relationship with her son. Now that he is moving on without her, Moritsugu seems to suggest that it is time for Emily to also grow up.
By nature and preference a loner, Emily moves through life holding others at arms-length. Her sharp tongue is a weapon she uses to full advantage. After a lunch party, her colleague Danny asks her “What happened to you back there? Demonic possession?” In her first meeting with a new client, Emily has her anti-authority radar on full blast: “We chat briefly about that house and owner, and Stewart gives me no immediate reason to get my back up…but my first impression is that the design of his eyeglasses is too trendy, his dress shirt too white, his jacket lapels too sharply cut, his Italian leather shoes too shiny.”
Moritsugu has created a very strong voice for Emily, whose cutting view of the world ably flows out of Moritsugu’s pen: “This is one of the many things I value Sylvia for: her ability to provide me with timely reminders about how pointless couplehood can be.” Now facing this new phase of life, one as a mother of an almost grown-up son, Emily must follow her own star and determine what is truly important to her. Emily’s restoration, in the autumn of her life, is an enjoyable one when handled with Mortisugu’s consummate skill.
Kim Moritsugu is the author of three previous novels: Looks Perfect (shortlisted for the Toronto Book Award), Old Flames, and The Glenwood Treasure (shortlisted for the Arthur Ellis Best Crime Novel Award). Moritsugu teaches creative writing at The Humber School for Writers in Toronto, Ontario.