Edgy, hip debut that transports an unhinged young Western woman to Tokyo to lose herself among all-night dance clubs and theme-happy “love hotels.”
Hanrahan’s Tokyo is a “nightmare of modernity” for Margaret, a Canadian who has come to Japan two months before as instructor at the Air-Pro Stewardess Training Institute. Her day job, preparing immaculately uniformed and highly synchronized Japanese women for the rigorous diplomacy of transcontinental flight, leaves Margaret ample time and funds for a rarefied night life with her suave and chameleon-like roommate, Ines, who manages to score all manner of drugs despite the difficulty of procuring them in Japan. Sleeping with a new man every night is the norm for these savvy gals. As Margaret inches not unhappily toward oblivion, her troubling past keeps nagging at her in the form of panicked cell-phone messages from her mother and older brother, Frank, back home in Canada. In flashbacks, we learn that Margaret’s angry, controlling father left home and started a new family, abandoning her possibly lesbian mother and her brother, who has struggled with mental illness. The current messages to Margaret hint at an attack on Frank by bullies, but Margaret, on her regular stool at Jiro’s bar, in her drug-addled state of apathy and self-pity, can’t immediately digest the contents. Besides, she has fallen in love with one of Ines’s bedfellows, a tattooed gangster named Kazu, who is smitten with Margaret when he watches her suck her thumb before sleep. Kazu possesses wealth and a hint of danger; the two explore theme rooms at love hotels until the powerful, rich wife catches on. Hanrahan successfully conveys an undercurrent of dark menace to Margaret’s Japanese experience, and, at the end of the story, she dramatically leaves us hanging.
This insider view of high-end Japanese youth culture is wicked and unsparing.