Su’s Summer Books: “Klara and the Sun”

Words by Su Ertekin-Taner


It finally happened. I went on a date. I say finally because I’m not an active seeker of love; I hope it floats to me. And frankly, my academic duties and work fulfill me. But I was determined to put myself out there, perhaps, discover the whole sea of fish that I am assured waits for me in my dating pool.

My prospect and I met in the stacks of the Town Center’s Barnes and Noble — a corporate bookstore whose prices and policies I usually don’t support but whose reliance on physical books and the art of surprise discovery of books (that even Amazon cannot recreate) I admire. Today’s discovery was anything but accidental, though. I searched for my prospect in the science fiction aisle. Soon thereafter, sparks flew, numbers were exchanged, and I was captivated by their exterior beauty. Conversation was sparse, but I learned everything I had to know from my prospect’s core. That’s where their true character lies.

The prospect’s name, you may ask, was Kazuo Ishiguro’s “Klara and the Sun.” The numbers exchanged? A trade of ISBN and a debit card. The exterior beauty? The front cover’s beautiful imagery and the back cover’s promising reviews. The core? The interior of the book which encouraged me to purchase even more than the front and back covers.

I chose “Klara and the Sun” knowing I would finish the book in a week or less—that’s the magic Ishiguro touch. I have read Ishiguro before: “Never Let Me Go” and “Remains of the Day” are staples in any literary lover’s bookcase. In the Ishiguro books I’ve devoured, sweet superficial scenes quickly mature into a tear-jerking, gut-punch of a storyline. On this day, I was ready to experience the turbulence.

Of course, I couldn’t resist my prospect’s façade that practically begged for a second date, so I obliged enthusiastically hoping my pick of the pond wasn’t spoiled. I offered Southern Grounds as our next rendezvous location and the paperback text, being the inanimate object that it is, didn’t respond. I am used to being the more assertive partner anyway.

I drove with “Klara and the Sun” in the passenger seat to Southern Grounds, a Neptune Beach coffeeshop buzzing with families, college students and foodies. I introduced my companion to my safe space and sat outside to feel the sweet spring Florida sun, now becoming the glaring summer Florida sun, on my skin. I ordered an everything bagel and a strawberry smoothie which I would consume alongside the pages of my book.

In the beginning pages, a young sick girl, Josie, purchases robot companion Klara as a friend and guide. As Josie’s illness progresses through the pages, Klara — who narrates her and Josie’s relationship — attempts to cure the girl through negotiating with the sun which she believes to be a healing force. I won’t reveal more than that.

I first nibbled away at the book, congruent with my treatment of the bagel. I chewed at the concise, yet captivating descriptions and the first-person narrative which never gave too much of the plotline away; the book opened and progressed like a blooming flower. Toward the middle, I began ravenously inhaling entire chapters and, of course, my bagel had long-been ingested. The science fiction novel removed me from the families, students and foodies that chattered and worked alongside me. I knew upon initial attraction to the Ishiguro title that the book novel would haul me to another expertly constructed world or another iteration of ours, entirely. I heard nothing and somehow felt everything as I read. Then, the gut-punch came, and I welcomed it. Crying in a café, which would make a great title for a song, was the outcome I expected from the rendezvous and still, the pages which practically turned themselves consistently surprised me emotionally.

Hours later, I left Southern Grounds, food and novel devoured. I was satiated with my date which challenged my mind and evoked profound emotion, as well as my hearty meal. I put myself out there that spring day and what started as a superficial quick infatuation soon bloomed into a deep love.