In Ami, Japan, sixteen year old American Elijah Fulton is bored. His only outlet is running. On an isolated path he meets a red fox who seems to imply he should follow; he does and ends up in a sacred circle. Soon after still suffering ennui, Elijah without telling anyone takes the train to Tokyo. After spending the day there, he tries to find the train back to the town where he, his parents and younger sister reside, but fails; no one seems to help him until a teen calling herself Midori helps him as she is going there too. After leaving the train at Ami they walk together until she heads to her father's farm while he goes home. Later he learns Midori committed suicide thirteen years ago.
In Tokyo, Hitumi meets Kazuko in a restaurant after each of their respective dates let them down. Soon afterward Asami and Tadashi the only male of the four form a suicide club pact that reminds Hitumi of her late friend Midori.
In this second novel by Christopher Barzak, readers will connect not only with familiar characters but with characters from far away. It is what I like to call a "global" novel, rather than one that speaks only to one country or region. It's a novel set in Japan, with characters both Japanese and American, as well as a few other nationalities. Each chapter is a story in and of itself. Some are told in the first person, almost as if the characters are sharing the secret stories of their lives with the reader, creating an amazing feeling of intimacy. Other chapters are told in the third person omniscient, in which the reader feels as if they are watching these characters on a movie screen. And other chapters are told in other ways, as in the third chapter, when it seems at first to be a monologue until you read to its end and discover that it isn't a monologue so much as an "address" from one character in the novel to another. The effect of this variation of storytelling...
I will skip the description of the book, which you have probably already read above, other than to say that I disagree with how some reviewers have dealt with the short story collection nature of the book. The connections binding together the individual "stories" that comprise the book are much less loose and much more deliberate and meaningful than might appear on first reading. It did not feel like a collection of connected short stories with an ensemble cast of characters. It felt more like a French new wave fractured narrative, e.g. "Last Year at Marienbad", though with much more real emotional impact.
This is a luminous, wise book exploring the quest for connection. The characters seek to span the divide between East and West, native and foreigner, parent and child, lover and lover, stranger and stranger, friend and friend, past and present, real and fantastical, living and dead. Most of them end up frustrated in their primary connections without...
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