cover image The Boy in the Earth

The Boy in the Earth

Fuminori Nakamura, trans. from the Japanese by Allison Markin Powell. Soho Crime, $23.95 (160p) ISBN 978-1-61695-594-6

The cynical and disengaged unnamed narrator of this enigmatic novel from Nakamura (The Gun) has quit his sales job at a company that produces educational materials and now works as a taxi driver in Tokyo. For no obvious reason, he picks a fight with a group of motorcyclists and, predictably, ends up badly beaten. He gives Sayuko, a former work colleague and the one person he regularly interacts with, no chance to express sympathy; they go to bed, but she shows no emotion during intercourse. Later, the narrator gets a jolt from news of the parents who abandoned him 20 years earlier: his mother has died, but his father is still alive. He can’t help wondering whether he could have led a different life if he had been given reason to believe that his parents actually hoped he would grow up to be a good person. Bit by bit, Nakamura fills in some of the details of his lead’s backstory, making a character who will initially seem alien to most readers less so. The action builds to a devastating conclusion that explains the title. (Apr.)