Review: Out by Natsuo Kirino

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Out by Natsuo Kirino

Title: Out

Author: Natsuo Kirino

Rating: 4/5 stars

My experience with Japanese literature lies almost entirely with Haruki Murakami (more on him  Sunday), so I was excited to broaden my horizons when I picked this up at the local used bookstore. Masako Katori is a woman going through one hell of a midlife crisis that just happens to coincide with her coworker strangling her husband. She takes charge of disposing the body, and soon gets in deeper danger than she ever expected.

The book started a little slow, as I took awhile to learn  the characters and keep them straight. This may have been due to the fact that I’m not very familiar with Japanese names, but the beginning of the book did wander. It wasn’t a fast read, but it hooked me with stark prose and a twisted plot that took surprising turns.

My main issue aside from pacing was Kuniko, the shrewish, lazy, “fat chick.” She is in fact one of the most vividly drawn characters, but I don’t like fat shaming, which was essentially her function. The other characters in the gang, Yoshie and Yayoi, also held varying levels of interest for me throughout the narrative. But Masako herself made up for that. It was refreshing to read about a forty-something woman who isn’t just a chick-lit stereotype of the sad, loveless woman with nothing left to offer. When the book begins, she is adrift, and she is lonely and lost, but as she finds her power she becomes a character that gets under your skin.

Out is everything the blurb promises-a tense, shocking, violent feminist revenge fantasy. There are graphic scenes that may be triggering or upsetting to some readers. For anyone interested in crime fiction or the dark edges of modern Japan, it’s a definite recommend.

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