cover image The Hole

The Hole

Hiroko Oyamada, trans. from the Japanese by David Boyd. New Directions, $13.95 trade paper (112p) ISBN 978-0-811228-87-9

Oyamada’s eerie latest (after The Factory) follows a young woman as she acclimates to a new life in rural Japan. Asa quits her job so that she and her husband, Muneaki, can live closer to his work. In the countryside, she attempts to fill their hot, unoccupied summer days with housework, naps, and cooking, and Oyamada inflects the domestic setting with the tone of a thriller, from the ominous sound of a child’s overheard cry to a missing envelope full of cash. Asa has unfulfilling, terse conversations with the distracted Muneaki and bewildering, paranoia-provoking interactions with Muneaki’s family, who are Asa’s closest neighbors and about whom she knows very little. The suspense cranks up when Asa repeatedly sees a strange black animal on the grounds that looks vaguely like a dog. After Asa falls into one of the holes the animal digs, she becomes determined to find out what’s going on with the animal; her efforts lead only to more questions, which build to a neat, satisfying ending. Oyamada’s atmospheric literary thriller puts a fresh, gripping spin on the bored housewife set-up. (Oct.)