Strangers by Taichi Yamada

StrangersAn idea that started as having relatively good potential, turned into B grade horror movie, except that it’s not even scary. That probably sums up what I think about the whole book. It’s very short so I’m sure you can finish it in no time. Even so, I felt like it could be compressed even more — probably up to half.

Our main character is Harada, a 40ish tv scriptwriter. His visit to his hometown on nostalgic purposes following his ugly divorce brings him to meet a couple who resemble his parents in every way who died when he was 12 years old. At almost the same time, he meets a woman who lives in the same building as him. As the building is mainly used as office in daytime, it is empty after hours and the two of them are possibly the only tenants left at nightime.

It felt like there are two parallel stories going on, his relationship with his ‘parents’ and with the woman. I quite liked the part with his parents, but failed to see why the part with the woman is necessary.

It could have been good, is all what I keep thinking.  It has great potential but it didn’t deliver. The resolution was unsatisfying, silly even, and the writing was quite repetitive. (They couldn’t possibly be my parents. They died a long time ago. It couldn’t be. But I saw them, I talked to them. It’s not possible. How is it possible? — Note: not exact quote, but you got my drift.)

My low rating has something more to do with the pointlessness of it all. I don’t think the character has grown throughout the course of the book and therefore I render his journey and my reading journey equally pointless.

I wish that the dead parents – son relationship had been developed much more. That probably would’ve been a more interesting point to explore. O well.Taichi Yamada

2.5 stars
1987 (Japanese), 2004 (English), 208 pp

First line
After my divorce, I set up house in the apartment I had been using as an office.

Last line
Thank you so much.

“Those who go through healthy childhoods learn that exhibiting a suitable degree of dependence is how one gains others’ love.” ~ p71

“There’s no end to it if you start wishing you had more.” ~ p78

1987 Yamamoto Shūgorō Prize

Yamada Taichi official site
Ijintachi tono natsu (1988) – movie based on the book, released in US titled The Discarnates or Summer Among the Zombies (seriously?!)

Book Awards Challenge III (book #4), R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril IV (book #2), Lost in Translation Challenge (book #4), Japanese Literature Challenge 3 (book #2), Orbis Terrarum Challenge 2009

Also reviewed by
In Spring it is the Dawn (had almost identical reaction as me)
Those who liked it more: Things Mean A Lot | Reading Matters | 1morechapter | The Reading Life

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30 thoughts on “Strangers by Taichi Yamada”

    1. Yea oh my gosh don’t even get me started on the ending… which I had seen from a mile away by the way, but kept hoping it wasn’t gonna be that.

      1. You’re right Gnoe. But really it wasn’t because of the ghost stuff. I actually liked the part with him and his parents. Some scenes moved me as well. That’s why I was hoping the story could concentrate more on that relationship. But alas, it didn’t go to the direction I was hoping for. I can understand how you would connect a lot more if you have experienced death of both parents. Definitely.

    1. Suko, this is in fact, technically, only my second book for the challenge! (I did read a couple more, but they’re not by Japanese authors) The challenge gave me a push definitely. I kinda shied away from Japanese books for a while before that, just because I wanted to diversify my reading. But it’s been good to be back for a bit :)

  1. I’m sad to hear the disappointment you felt in reading the book, as the cover is so compelling! I’m immediately drawn to wantint to open it up. but I haven’t read it yet, and I may not having read your frustrations. I can see myself feeling exactly the same way. It sure won a significant prize, though, didn’t it?
    .-= [Bellezza´s last blog: Old Thinking, Same Self] =-.

    1. I love the cover here too (though it’s not the one I read). Yes it won a significant prize, so I’m kinda wondering if I missed anything. I feel that this kind of plot is overused in many Asian stories, so there was no element of surprise or wonder to me. I wonder if the book started the trend back in 1987 when it was first published in Japan. But then 1987 was not that long time ago. So.. I don’t know.

  2. I was contemplating between Jeanette Winterson’s Weight and this book Strangers the other day, and Weight won. I told myself I’d read Strangers some other day.

    Too bad you didn’t like the book that much. But like you said, it’s not really a big book, and should be relatively quick to read. I might actually still give it a go before I pass any judgement. Though my expectations have dropped considerably now.
    .-= [Michelle´s last blog: “Hello Japan!” mini-challenge, and other things Japan] =-.

    1. You might be better off with low expectation. You may end up liking it. Other people seem to like it more than I did. I might have had pretty high expectation when I started it.

  3. Sorry to hear that you found this book bad:P…I like the twist at the end, which haunted me for a long time. Wow, it actually won an award? Can’t imagine that…haha

    1. It’s hard for me to comment on the twist without giving it away, but let me try. I liked the reason behind the twist (which is haunting, like what you said), but I hated the scene (that’s where the B grade horror movie label came to mind :P)

      Yea the award took me by surprise a bit. But so far there have been a few award winning Japanese books that I don’t really get.

  4. I agree the lead character does not develop-to me the book is about the hold the dead can have over the lving-the parents are at least in part the creation of the lead character-I saw as a tale of how lose can pull us into another world. I admit I am glad it was not a long book-I found the female character who lived in the same apartment buildng as the lead character kind of a silly addition to the book-like the author wanted to throw in some sensational scenes-maybe I liked it a bit more than Mee but I understandher frustrations with the book-it tries to be a scary story of the supernatural when that is not really where the power of the book resides

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