You can run – Adam Jones
Pumped up Kicks – Foster the People
Milk and Cookies – Melanie Martinez
Doing the Right Thing – Daughter
Lacrimosa – Kalafina
Bully – Shinedown
“I suppose everybody wants to be recognized for what they’ve done; everybody wants to be praised. But doing something good or remarkable isn’t easy. It’s much easier to condemn people who do the wrong thing than it is to do the right thing yourself. But even then, it takes a certain amount of courage to be the first one to come out and blame someone else. What if no one else joins you? No one else stands up to condemn the wrongdoer? On the other hand, it’s easy to join in condemning someone once someone else has gotten the ball rolling. You don’t even have to put yourself out there; all you have to do is say, “Me, too!”
Yuko Moriguchi, a middle school teacher retires from her job after a devastating accident in the school led to the death of her beloved 4 year old daughter. And while almost all assume the grief to be her reason of resignation, it is something much darker. Having realized that her child’s death was no accident but an event orchestrated by two boys in the very class she teaches, this mother takes it upon herself to punish two boys who the justice system would pardon all too easily. And so she constructs a revenge so elaborate that long after she has left, the two boys and everyone close to them feel the tremors of this vengeance. And not all of them survive.
A grisly tale of vengeance and horror, Kanae Minato has penned a disturbingly accurate portrayal of what the death of a loved one really does. What’s interesting to note is that the story in itself is really simple – so are the events leading up to it. But the devil’s in the details, and as each character narrates their view of the story and what they have witnessed – right from Yuko Moriguchi to the students she accuses of having orchestrated the death of her child – the story only torpedoes into one of unbridled human misery.
As someone who absolutely adores Japanese literature, this book added to the category of their writing – simple writing with intricate plot lines and unapologetic character. Though at first I found the narration and tone of the book rather unusual. There’s a singular first person narration that omits actual discourse and only spells out external and internal dialogue. It takes a little getting used to, since this kind of tone often renders an impassioned tone to the story. But as the story and narration develops, the story becomes anything but. What’s commendable in this book is that it lays out the darkest parts of a human being. More often than not, revenge plots lead to forgiveness for those who have committed a wrong. But not Yuko Moriguchi. She chooses not to report her suspicions to the police but instead deal with them in her own remorselessly frightening methods. Something remarkable in her character is the fact is that seems to have entered what most fantasy and assassination literature referred to as the ‘killing calm’ – a state where the person in question enters an absolute state of calm that defies all sense. Logically, the situation they are put in would elicit reactions of rage and grief, but those possessed by the calm take drastic and heinous measures to deal with their victims remorselessly. Which is something Yuko does exceedingly well.
This unfortunate mother decides to ensure the best punishment she can give to two people who will easily escape the justice system due to their young age. Her methods start from physical alterations into the more possible and effective strategies of psychological manipulation. And here you even have a commentary on the Japanese Justice system and how it treats juveniles. Hint: Too lightly. She not only unleashes an actual revenge plot that may leave the two boys scarred for life, but also creates a caustic environment that ensures hostility and downright torture for the boys. In the midst of morality and mob justice the righteous characters stand no chance. Instead, it breaks stereotypes and gives us a portrayal of what the real world is and what revenge should really be like- no opportunity for redemption finds purchase in this book. The two boys, Shuya and Naoki are subjected to hair raising methods of exacting revenge. Not in terms of the pain or torture that are meted out, but the pure symbolism of the acts ; that initiate intensive social isolation that would force both to live out their lives as pariahs.
This is possibly the only book I have come across that reveals just how dangerous, sinister and depraved children can be. How they’re not always as innocent as society portrays them to be. In this story, you see exactly what happens when those who the system aims to protect take undue advantage of such care and affection and punish those who wished them well. Even at points in time where you as a reader begin to find sympathy for one of the boys, they do something so absolutely dreadful that you long to have them burned at the stake. It is a jury trial the likes of which the killers of Junko Faruta deserved. The book surprisingly resembles more a novella than an actual book, but at the same time is intensely gripping. The story takes a life of itself, unraveling around the people who have participated in it , filling gaps and holes in the story in a way that only reveals itself in the second to last chapter – followed by a bombastic reveal.
The characters are not likable – they’re all so terribly human that they are inherently flawed. There is no mercy, no reprieve to their development as individuals. Just themselves and how they choose to handle what life has doled out to them. And for those who decide that they are entitled to the world because they deserve to be protected, there’s a nasty surprise waiting for them. With careful attacks aimed at them from every source possible, the thick web ensnares everyone close to these two boys – their family, friends, acquaintances, everyone. And while Yuko has known great loss, she ensures that the perpetrators of her daughter’s murder don’t just feel pain and misery profound – her plan makes them feel absolute and devastating loss.
My Rating: 4/5