Life in the Cul de Sac
by Senji Kuroi
Stone Bridge Press
What began as a series of interlinking short stories, Kuroi has woven into an unsettling whole in this novel of Japanese suburban dis-ease. The various families in the titular cul-de-sac, whom we visit several times over the course of a few years, spend almost as much time speculating about their neighbours as they do preoccupied with their own problems.
Kuroi spikes his prose with hallucinatory moments that he purposely does not set off from the mundane reality that has spawned them, leaving the reader momentarily off-balance and forced to work out whether they have actually happened, or are merely the product of a character's febrile imagination. Is the old well under the house overflowing, filling the kitchen? Does the little girl from next door have a thousand needles crammed into her mouth in a grotesque parody of an ancient Japanese vow of truthfulness?