Week 13, Part 2–The Eighth Day

Oh, I’m behind. Forgive me!

First of all, does anyone else find it amusing that week thirteen’s book was called “The Thirteenth Tale”? I just noticed that, and no, I did not do it on purpose. Hah! Funny how life works out.

http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=Bibliograph07-20&o=1&p=8&l=bpl&asins=4770030886&fc1=F3EDED&IS2=1&lt1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=040404&f=ifrThe second book I read in week 13 was called The Eighth Day by Mitsuyo Kakuta, a book originally written in Japanese and translated into English. It’s another of those books set in a place I do not know a great deal about, and it’s interesting that our book club chose it mere days before the earthquake in Japan brought the country to the forefront of everyone’s thoughts.  It is an interesting discovery to make as I read–the realization that most of the books I read are set in a fairly limited range of settings.  Thus, though Japan bears great similarities to the United States, I felt fully the cultural differences while reading Kakuta’s book.  Sometimes they brought me down, because it was difficult for me to reconcile the traditionalism of the eastern culture with the invasion of my familiar “western” economy and ideas.

The story is told in two parts. The first part begins in 1985, and is narrated by a woman who, after her affair with a married man ends in her aborting his child, kidnaps the child borne him by his wife.  She lives for four years on the run, in various hiding places, raising the girl as her own. At the end of four years, she is caught and the child is returned to a family she doesn’t recognize as her own.  The second part is narrated by the child herself in the present day, all grown up and struggling to find the truth about her identity and come to terms with her harrowing family situation.  When she meets a barely-remembered friend from her days spent with the kidnapper, she follows their old route around Japan to uncover what really happened during those four years, and who the woman was whom she called mother.

It wasn’t my favorite, I won’t lie. I felt weighted down by a very heavy depression the entire time I was reading.  Literally everyone in the book is screwed-up somehow (I guess the counterargument to that would be which of us isn’t screwed up?) and after a time, it really brought me down. Like so much contemporary literature, there seemed to be little or no resolution or redemption at the end of the novel.  Personally, I enjoy reading as an escape from the monotony and uncertainty of life. It is rare that I want to read about the same depressing things and open-ended questions that I experience in real life. I appreciate the value of documenting modern life in this way, and understand the appeal it may have for others. Indeed, this novel may hold a great deal of appeal for someone whose preferences tend toward this type of novel, as it is an intriguing story and is well written.  For me, however, it’s not a novel I would ever revisit, nor one of which I would speak highly.

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