cover image Me


Tomoyuki Hoshino, trans. from the Japanese by Charles De Wolf. Akashic, $15.95 t

Hoshino (The Mermaid Sings Wake Up) draws inspiration from the “It’s me” telephone scams that prey mostly on Japan’s elderly, opening with mischievous Hitoshi Nagano as he takes the cell phone of Daiki Hiyama and (posing as Daiki) asks the young man’s mother for ¥900,000. Hitoshi explains that the wire is to pay a debt to a friend, and then gives her his actual name and bank account. Three days later, Daiki’s mother appears in Hitoshi’s home and, calling him Daiki, treats Hitoshi as if he is her son. From this point, the ordinary life of the characters transforms, as Hoshino leads readers on a psychological and philosophical journey in which the value of individualism is questioned and tested in escalating absurdist measures. When Hitoshi visits his old home, he finds another young man living as his parents’ son and is treated as an imposter by his mother. The novel is most successful during Hoshino’s riffs on parents obsessed with making sure their children achieve respectable vocations and marriages, value children more for their lack of individualism than for their unique talents and eventually losing sight of their adult children’s identities. In Hoshino’s dystopia, identities are fluid and any one is as good as another. The novel pushes this idea into a highly plotted, absurd world where normally shocking movements are rendered as reportage, depicted with the same emotional weight as casual conversations. Hoshino’s ambitious novel is pleasingly uncomfortable. (June)