Manazuru by Hiromi Kawakami,
Michael Emmerich (Translator)
Counterpoint, 2010; Paperback, 224 pages
Public library copy
Rei is a woman whose husband disappeared without a trace several years ago. Rei has tried to make a life for herself and her daughter, Momo, who was a young child when the man disappeared. Rei and Momo, now a somewhat sullen teenager, live with Rei's mother. The novel is in the first person singular with Rei as the narrator. It is not clear if Rei is relating memories, dreams, or hallucinations.
Rei is continually drawn to the seaside town Manazuru where she thinks she will experience something that will jog a vague memory. She continually feels that she is being followed or accompanied by "something," perhaps a woman. She goes on walks and the woman goes along sometimes in silence, other times there is talking; or is it an interior dialog Rei is having with herself?
Through this haze of confusion, there are moments of reality. Rei's exchanges with her lover, her mother, and her daughter seem real. Her description of her visit to her in-laws when they set up a shrine to her lost husband seems lucid. However, we wonder: is her lover, actually with her for part of that trip? The sequence concerning the paperwork Rei goes through to have her husband declared dead seems harshly real. In fact, it seems it may bring Rei's life back to reality.
I liked this novel with its rich, dreamy language. The contrast between what is going on in Rei's mind and the face she presents to the world is an intriguing look into the mental condition of a very disturbed woman.