Danny’s mother died three weeks before his graduation.
She had cancer for 5 years, and all she ever wanted to do was to make it to Danny’s graduation, she said. But she couldn’t even make it the last three weeks, like she promised. And now Danny is left alone, with the empty house and the memories, having to figure out what to do with her estate and what to say for his Valedictorian speech now that his mom is gone. When he gets a letter from his mom’s property manager in Tokyo, where his mother had been going for treatment, it paints a picture of a side of his mother he never knew. And he knows, when he gets this letter, that the only way to ever settle his grief over her loss is to go to Tokyo and discover everything he can about her love affair with that city.
Through all that, When You Were Here has humor and warmth, a great dog named Sandy Koufax, an estranged love, and a Japanese friend who is almost-but-definitely-not a Harijuku girl, and whose manic joy for life and sponge cake are the exact thing Danny needs to pull himself through the days and come to terms with his mother’s death.