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A dark, murky, undisciplined first novel full of sushi, sex, and suffering.

Power is at her best when describing the selection, preparation, and serving of Asian food, something she does with visceral gusto and authority. Indeed, there are many scenes in this unrelentingly grim story that are well crafted, even lyrical—but they remain only that: fragments in a pastiche of shifting styles and voices that seems to contain just about everything the author may have encountered in life to date. The main characters are a sad, middle-aged, prostitute; an obsessed, guilt-ridden sushi chief (Ito); and his equally sad love interest, a failed, thirtysomething, alcoholic waitress (Marianne) at the sushi bar where he works. Most of the story takes place over a two-day period during which Ito asks Marianne to dinner, partly to warn her that her drinking at work has been noticed. Marianne passes out drunk in her bath, sleeps through the date, and is subsequently fired by the restaurant owner (Yoshi), who, we learn, has previously raped her. Ito then hooks up with the desperate Marianne in an attempt to save her, seduce her, or match her drink-for-drink (it's unclear which) and executes a robbery of the sushi bar on her behalf. Numerous lengthy flashbacks describe characters in the lives of Ito and Marianne, stories of alcoholism, murder, and joylessly repellent sex, including child molestation and child prostitution—tales that bear little relation to each other and eventually overwhelm what little primary storyline there is. Ito and Marianne remain depressed, unsympathetic characters with almost nothing in common beyond the fact that they have both abandoned children in the past, and their pairing at the end in search of the lost children seems forced and mawkish rather than hopeful.

An unfocussed effort, much like a series of sketches for, say, a story collection.

Pub Date: April 1st, 2001
ISBN: 0-87113-784-4
Page count: 240pp
Publisher: Atlantic Monthly
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 2001


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