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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