Author: Natsuo Kirino
Publication Date: July 11, 2003 (English)
Date Started: May 21, 2017
Date Finished: June 9, 2017
This summer I was granted the most amazing, once in a lifetime opportunity to live and work in Japan. For the entire summer I lived at a university and studied Japanese butterflies. Seriously, a dream come true.
In order to prepare, I began reading acclaimed Japanese literature (like I really needed an excuse!) I know, I know, this prepares me for absolutely nothing, but it was the motivation I needed to dig past the books that are popular in the USA. I decided to start with one of the top mystery books of the nation, Out. In fact, this novel has been dubbed “the #1 mystery novel out of Japan” with a fairly high consensus.
I will begin with saying that this novel does not quite fit to the definition of mystery that we expect in the west. In America, this would fall more under suspense or thriller, with the only mystery being if they will get away with it. This novel follows four women who work at a bento factory (boxed lunches for the gaijin out there. Super delicious, highly recommend). In the very beginning, one of them murders her husband (see, no mystery). The other three then assist in disposing of the body and covering up the crime. The women are then dragged into the underbelly of Japan and the trust that is required among them exposes their true dispositions.
At points in this novel, the suspense is palpable and there were scenes I had to set the book down (slightly forcibly) as some descriptions were a little too vivid for me to handle. While none of the women are particularly likeable, it is easy to sympathize with them and their situations in life, as they were truly handed the worst lot in life. This leads to a very conflicting moral dilemma as you read the book. On the one hand, they are terrible people who committed a crime. And on the other hand, you kinda hope they get away with it.
While the psychology of the characters is top notch, it was really hard for me to get past the ending. No spoilers here, but I has absolutely dismayed and disappointed with the ending. I logically could not comprehend that such an ending would be possible. To me, it was too absurd to even be considered. In fact, I was disgusted at the ways the author chose to have certain characters act during the concluding scene. This aside, the remainder of the book was well worth a read.
On a completely side note, this novel delved into the cross-culture between Japan and Brazil. This was not something I had ever heard of before, yet there were several characters in the novel from Brazil. I thought nothing of it, but was reminded of this point while in Japan. To my shock, I stumbled across a Samba parade in Kawasaki (a city between Tokyo and Yokohama). Not only was it a complete blast, but had fantastic community involvement.
Overall, 3/5 moose