The plan is to leave. As for how, when, to where, and even why—she doesn’t know yet. So begins a journey for the twenty-four-year-old narrator of Days of Distraction. As a staff writer at a prestigious tech publication, she reports on the achievements of smug Silicon Valley billionaires and start-up bros while her own request for a raise gets bumped from manager to manager. And when her longtime boyfriend, J, decides to move to a quiet upstate New York town for grad school, she sees an excuse to cut and run.
Moving is supposed to be a grand gesture of her commitment to J and a way to reshape her sense of self. But in the process, she finds herself facing misgivings about her role in an interracial relationship. Captivated by the stories of her ancestors and other Asian Americans in history, she must confront a question at the core of her identity: What does it mean to exist in a society that does not notice or understand you?
I really struggle with meandering narratives. It works against my reading speed, so the book becomes a serious effort to read. I’m only coming to terms with this myself – it explains why I prefer fast-paced, action-driven stories – the speed feels natural and effortless. Reading about someone who is floundering, struggling to find their place and purpose, leaves me feeling sluggish like I’m running endlessly through shallow water.
While I can appreciate our narrator’s listlessness and sense of lost direction, and I can even understand a lot of her frustrations with her partner and colleagues, there is an overwhelming sense of a victim complex and selfishness that’s hard to overcome. She seems to be waiting for someone to step in and fix things for her. Taking little responsibility for her feelings and even less action to understand them, she lets the little (and big) things pile up until the slightest annoyance becomes a big problem.
It is the nature of relationships that they are impossible to fully understand from the outside, their inner workings built both from memories and habits and histories made up from the exterior world, and from those known only between the two involved, that exist only through them and are lost when they are lost to each other. A relationship is particular in the way people are particular.
Days of Distraction certainly has merit. It forces a reflection on things taken for granted. Things like the life you live without making an active choice to do so, the family you’re born into and the family you choose, and how the place you live and the people you interact with can affect your mental health. It’s a contemplative and introspective read; the pace just didn’t suit my taste.