Out, Natsuo Kirino, Vintage International, 2005, 416 pp
A young mother in Tokyo, working the night shift in a boxed lunch factory, murders her abusive husband. Her three best friends at work band together to help her dispose of the body. These women are desperate housewives beyond anything we see in American entertainment, though there are undoubtedly women in our great society who live equally on the edge of disaster, hopelessness and criminality. So while Out is brutally bloody and violent, more hard-boiled than almost anything I have ever read, I think it is realistic.
Natsuo Kirino shows deep insight regarding feminism, male and female psychology, and Japanese society in the late 20th century. She is one hell of a criminal writer and keeps up a relentless pace. Sometimes I could hardly take the sheer amount of gore but I was fascinated and reading as fast as I could. As the friendships between the four women deteriorate following the crime and as one of the women finds herself involved in the Tokyo criminal underworld, it was the psychological aspects of the story that I found the most intriguing. What does getting out actually involve for these women?
This is dark stuff. I was put in mind of Patricia Highsmith, Mary Gaitskill, Joyce Carol Oates, Shirley Jackson; female authors who can look the dark underside of female existence straight in the face. The novel is as far as you can get from a feel-good family story. It is probably not the thing for most women readers I know, but it sure is powerful and is as close to horror as I want to get.
(Out is available in paperback by order from Once Upon A Time Bookstore.)