cover image The Boy and the Dog

The Boy and the Dog

Hase Seishū, trans. from Japanese by Alison Watts. Viking, $23 (320p) ISBN 978-0-593-30041-1

The human-canine bond is the subject of the affecting English-language debut from Seishū, capably translated by Watts. The story opens in the aftermath of 2011’s “triple disaster,” as the narrator describes the earthquake and tsunami that brought about a nuclear meltdown in Fukushima. When Kazumasa, a down-on-his-luck factory worker, comes across a strangely self-possessed dog named Tamon (according to the dog’s tag) in a convenience store parking lot, he decides to adopt him. Suddenly Kazumasa’s life changes: his elderly mother perks up from her dementia, and a classmate offers him a job as a getaway driver for a band of foreign thieves. After the caper ends in tragedy, Tamon finds himself with a new owner, and when that chapter ends, he is adopted by childless couple Sae and Taiki, whose marriage is troubled. Each owner remarks on Tamon’s remarkable presence and notes that the dog seems to be on a journey: while at rest he always “faced west”—but “What was in the west?” Sae wonders. When Tamon finally reaches his destination, the reunion waiting for him is indeed moving. Seishū imbues Tamon with a nobility that never feels sentimental or overdrawn. With this tender display, he proves himself a gifted storyteller. (Nov.)