cover image Diary of a Void

Diary of a Void

Emi Yagi, trans. from the Japanese by David Boyd and Lucy North. Viking, $23 (224p) ISBN 978-0-14-313687-3

Yagi, in her riveting and surreal debut, offers a close inspection of the demands of motherhood. Shibata, 34, works at a paper core manufacturer. Though it appears an improvement from her previous position, where she was sexually harassed, the new workplace has its own sexist culture. Shibata soon learns that as the only woman in her section, her responsibilities also include undertaking the traditionally feminine chores of cleaning up after everyone, making coffee, and serving snacks. Sick of it, Shibata invents a lie: she’s pregnant. Instantly, the menial tasks go away and people around her begin to treat her with more caution and consideration. She gets to leave early, and treats herself to relaxing baths and dinners by herself. Soon, though, she realizes the lie, though easily created, will need work to uphold. As the weeks progress, Shibata tracks fetus development with an app, eats for two and enrolls in maternity aerobics. The more she works to keep up the fake pregnancy, the more it begins to seem real to her. Absurdist, amusing and clever, the story brings subtlety and tact to its depiction of workplace discrimination—as well as a touch of magic. Readers will eagerly turn the pages all the way to the bold conclusion. (Aug.)