Yulia's Reviews > Real World

Real World by Natsuo Kirino
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Jul 26, 08

bookshelves: japandemonium, criminal-intent, read-to-me-by-frank
Read in July, 2008

A deceptively game-like excitement about news of a male neighbor's matricide leads four female friends into a surprisingly harsh look at the masks they've put on to maintain appearances, at our fascination with and empathy for those who are driven to do an unthinkable act, and at the meaning of life's struggle to be honest with ourselves and our closest friends and to accept the consequences of our actions. The boy's young neighbor doesn't want to get involved in the police investigation and protects him for her own sake, while her lesbian friend is intent on helping him escape; a third friend is intrigued by this boy-on-the-run enough to meet him and a fourth follows everyone's actions and makes a decisive move of her own. All the time, I couldn't help wondering, who would I have been in this scenario?

At turns funny, melodramatic, hyper-aware, and realistic to the point where I was placing those I knew in these characters' situations, this was a disorienting read at times due to the need to change internal settings as the mood of the characters did, but Kirino pulls it off successfully because an underlying truth connects all these mood swings and second guessing.

(spoiler warning)

I was left crying at the end, wondering for the first time not about those who end their lives, but those who are left behind to remember and endure the meaning of lives cut short. For once, I thought not of the reasons for suicide (to spare others' humiliation, tpo end one's own suffering, to erase oneself from the world's chaos) but of those left behind to deal with what the suicide meant, and the body that is no longer fit to be seen in the coffin, and the questions that will always remain unanswered: about the crossed webs of guilt, and why we feel we must keep the secrets we do, and how well our closest friends truly know us and why we can't be open to them when we need them most. So yes, I cried, thinking improbably not of the deceased, but of those left to remember and wondering how things could have turned out differently.

I admit, I needed another antidepressant by the time we'd finished the book (we'd read through the night and it's morning now), but perhaps the thoughts that came to me about the no-win situation of life (damned if you kill yourself, damned if you live on to endure a life that will end in death) and the unfairness of who deems themselves worthy of passing on their genes to future generations and who is so overwhelmed at the thought of being an adequate parent so that they never do have children--well, all these thoughts may be brushed off as a sign it was time for me to take another antidepressant pill, but I can't help wondering, was it depressive realism that overwhelmed me when I finished this book and saw the utter bleakness of our situation with death so near and our goals so meaningless?

And I thought of those who had died recently, from those I never knew, like Tim Russert, to those I did, like my father-in-law, and the thought of the reality of their death was suffocating and felt too real, too close to life. So what does this prove? I am afraid of death. It's an escape, but to escape by means of seeking out the thing you fear makes no sense yet complete sense, and why is this?

Again, Capote came to mind with the image of the friend with a white cloth over her head, which was unfit to be seen. No, Kirino is not flawless, but her works are haunting and they do raise very real issues amid the chattiness and seeming lightness. They hit you when you're least prepared. Which is good, no?

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My first impression? Better integrated than but including the eerie insight into Japanese schooling of Grotesque with the keen social commentary of Out, but with less compelling characters than the latter.
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