Book Reviews

Out * Natsuo Kirino

Four women are bound together by the crime that one of them committed. Step in to walk through the lives of the factory night shift workers, struggling with debts and a life that doesn’t seem to be going anywhere.

Out-UK-Cover

I came across Out when I bought another book by Natsuo Kirino called Grotesque. I saw on the cover that she had a previous bestseller in 2002 called OUT and I went quickly on eBay to secure my copy. I must say I devoured the book in just two days. It’s not a small book, its 500+ pages make it a sturdy read – but I loved it nonetheless.
The crimes, the connections, the sudden turn of events, the frail love blossoming and then being squashed by something so horrible that it cannot fit anything but a monster’s nightmares. My rating is 10/10.

 

Out is the story of four women who work in a lunch-box factory (making lunches that go to convenience stores) are put in a position to do the unthinkable and the other lives this one action affects.

A young mother, Yayoi, abused by her husband who has spent all their money including millions of yen in savings finally snaps and kills her husband. Not knowing what to do, she calls her friend Masako to help her. Misako has her own problems: her son doesn’t speak–by choice–and her husband just wants to be alone. She agrees to help her friend and co-worker and enlists the help of two other friends; Kuniko and Yoshie. She decides the best thing to do is to cut the body into sections and drop it in a rubbish area.

All the women are struggling to make ends meet, they have debts, especially Kuniko, whom apart from wearing fake brand products is also fat and lazy and always looking for the easy way to do something. Yoshie is looking after her bed-ridden mother-in-law (husband is deceased), her house is an old wooden building with an earthen floor entrance. She has two daughters, one eager to enter high school (if mum can find the money) and the other a single mother who drops off her child to go look for work and returns weeks later and steals all the cash Yoshie has saved up.

The book has some horrific moments which I enjoyed. There are a host of characters in the book and most are delicately balanced on the thin line of morality. The writing is strong and flows smoothly, it’s also addictive to read about these characters and learn over time how they are all drawn together.

The only drawback of this book is the final chapter where it is told from one POV and the next section is the same chapter from another POV. And the Stockholm syndrome is sudden and unexpected and unbelievable.

Have I ruined the ending? Hell no. The ending is fast, violent and exciting. This book has won several crime fiction awards but I feel it is more a thriller than anything else. People unfamiliar with Japan’s culture, lifestyle and thinking patterns may find the actions of four women and the business that results from it a tad on the heavy/unrealistic side but living here and understanding the way things are makes the actions in this book highly possible.

This book has a touch of everything, lonely housewives, abusive husbands, hookers, hostesses, ex-gang members, Yakuza, murder and the brilliant thing is, Natsuo Kirino blended them all together into the backdrop of the story, making it feel like a daily part of life in Japan but it all ties in.

A brilliant and enjoyable read.


Natsuo Kirino


natsuo-kirino
Natsuo Kirino, born 1951, quickly established a reputation in Japan as one of a rare breed of crime writer whose work goes well beyond the conventional crime novel. This fact has been demonstrated by her winning not only Japan’s top mystery award, for Out, but one of its major literary awards, the Naoki Prize for Soft Cheeks. Several of her books have also been turned into movies. Out is the first of her novels to appear in English.

Her novel Out was translated into English by Stephen Snyder, a professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder, who is well known for his excellent translations of contemporary Japanese fiction, among them Ryu Murakami’s ‘Coin Locker Babies’ and Miri Yu’s ‘Gold Rush’.

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