Now You’re One of Us by Asa Nonami
Here’s a story about a bride who’s no longer sure what to think. All families have their own rituals, secrets, and credos, like a miniature religious cult; these quirks may elicit the mirth or mild alarm of guests, but the matter is rather more serious if you’re marrying into a household. If its’s a Japanese one with a history, the brace yourself: some surprising truths lurk around the corner.
First Impressions: It read like a lot of contemporary Japanese novels. Perhaps not *quite* as engaging but there was more than enough to keep going.
Highlights: Even though this is a rather bizarre story in the end (of course it is!) I think the author really captured the difficulties of marriage for women in modern Japan. The family situation felt stifling and Noriko’s grappling with where her loyalties should lie was believable and I found it a little uncomfortable. Is there really nothing more important than her husband’s family? I was almost surprised the family let her meet with her friend Tomomi. I have since read that Asa Nonami has a decent female following in Japan as she provides searing critiques of Japanese society in her writings. Yes, definitely a feminist novel!
If I was an editor: Well, I knew it would get weird but the revelation was really out there. It wasn’t the supernatural explanation I was expecting and I still can’t decide whether this disappoints more or not. If you can believe it, the family secret is both so offbeat and underwhelming at the same time. There must be some cultural nuances and references I don’t understand (guilty!). Also, while it is a relatively short novel I think it could have been shorter – Noriko wavered one (or two) too many times with her feelings of loyalty to the family.
Overall: Odd but is seared in my memory.
Now You’re One of Us: 3 Stars