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Monday, September 24, 2007

Book Review: Woman on the Other Shore

「対岸の彼女」角田 光代

Woman on the Other Shore, by Mitsuyo Kakuta

Judging by most of the Japanese novels that make it into English, you might think that modern Japanese lit is all about wild sheep chases, forked tongues, and chopped up bodies. But there’s more. Thanks to translator Wayne P. Lammers, we now have Woman on the Other Shore, a novel about two relatively normal 35-year-old women - a stay-at-home mom, and a single woman who has her own business. She brings a wealth of knowledge and insight to her first novel.

Woman on the Other Shore
Sayoko, the mother, can’t seem to fit in with the other moms when she goes to the park. She winds up “park-hopping,” changing venues every time the moms start to get cliquey. The other woman, Aoi, was bullied throughout her school years, and finds it difficult to forge close relationships. When Sayoko decides to give up park-hopping and begin a job at Aoi’s company, the two form an unlikely friendship, which is threatened by the latter’s dark past.

This carefully constructed novel starts out slow, but tension builds as secrets are revealed. Kakuta presents a vivid, albeit sometimes disturbing portrait of women in contemporary Japan.

Reviewed by Suzanne Kamata

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