Tuesday, July 17, 2012
Out by Natsuo Kirino
I was completely immersed in Japanese fiction a few weeks ago. That's because there is truth to the saying that 'one book leads to another.' I picked up Out by Natsuo Kirino right after finishing The People Who Ate Darkness by Richard Lloyd Parry. The latter is a true crime novel set in the underbelly of Tokyo. I was so caught up in that world that I just couldn't leave it so I decided to finally read Out, a book that's been on my To-Be-Read pile for years. The first time I tried it, I was so turned off by the lurid details that I had to stop. But I was ready for it now. To say that I loved the book sounds so strange considering it's a psychological crime novel that involves dismemberment. But it's so much more than a crime novel. I would say it surpasses genres. Out is also about women banding together to save one of their own kind; about women discovering their own dark natures and the fragility of some female friendships. It's about being desperate and doing things one would never do in normal circumstances. There's actually quite a lot of layers in this book and it stays with you long after you've finished it. It was also an extremely intense and compelling read. It's not a pretty book as it's full of desperate characters in an ugly world. Out is not for the faint of heart but I wish I could recommend this to my book club because there's certainly tons to discuss.
In Out, four females who work the night shift at a bento box lunch factory form an unlikely friendship because of their jobs and their unsatisfactory lives - unhappy marriages, problem children and strained economic situations. When one of the women, Yayoi, kills her gambling and philandering spouse, her friends decide to help her get rid of the body by dismembering it, separating the parts into several garbage bags and disposing the bags in several trash sites in the Tokyo area. The women are now bound together because of their crime but the ties that bind them are fragile because of jealousy, suspicion and self-interest. One of them makes a careless mistake that will expose them to unexpected danger.
In spite of their crime, I felt empathy for most of the characters especially for Masako, the leader of the group. Out shows how easy it would be to just slip into the dark side; it's a scary thought. I am so impressed with this author that after Out I picked up another one by Kirino, Grotesque. I just wish more of her books were translated into English. Out, released in 1997 won the Mystery Writers of Japan Award and was a finalist for the 2004 Edgar Award.
I'm including this in the Japanese Literature Challenge 6 hosted by Dolce Bellezza Do check out the site for more reviews from other bloggers.