Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Now You're One Of Us, by Asa Nonami

(pb; 1993, 2007: translated by Michael Volek & Mitsuko Votek)

From the back cover:

"The Shitos: eight people, four generations, one household, with young newlywed Noriko joining the clan to make nine. Her husband Kazuhito adores her to distraction and her in-laws seem to be the most good-natured people imaginable. the family owns a thriving business and lives on a sprawling estate in the suburbs of Tokyo where they've created a floral paradise. Once a series of strange events and inconsistencies trigger Noriko's suspicions, however, reality becomes inseparable from her own dark imaginings."


Okay read from a potentially-great writer.

The pluses:

Now You're One Of Us flows better than Nonami's translation-stilted The Hunter. Nonami is in her element here, with strong characters and a pace (for the most part) that wastes no time establishing the initially low-key creepiness necessary for this kind of novel.

The minuses:

Now You're One Of Us is predictable.

Anyone who's read Ira Levin's Rosemary's Baby, or seen the resulting film, will spot the lame end-"twist" early on. In this day and age, at least in the United States, that twist is Clichéd, with a capital "C".

While reading Now, I kept hoping that Nonami was playing the clichéd set-up to spring some mind-f*ck/paradigm-shift on the reader. Sadly, this is not the case.

Another deal-killer on this 239-page novel is that it's seventy-five to a hundred pages too long. The last quarter of Now would've been fine if the storyline wasn't so predictable: yes, folks, another case of style over increasingly-thin substance.

Also, in order to support the flagging storyline, Now's characters start acting dumb, really dumb. Not 'cinematic-teenagers-in-a-haunted-house' dumb, but close.

With a less common set-up, and a lot of end-section trimming, this novel-that-should've-been-a-novella is disappointing, at best.

As far as I know of, The Hunter and Now You're One Of Us are the only Nonami English-translated novels available stateside. I hope more come this way soon, because I'd like to read a nailed-it work by this potentially-wondrous author.

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