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Wednesday 6.15.05: More Women Who Kill

Motivated on my entry about women who kill (and their girlfriends), Fugai sent me the novel Out by Natsuo Kirino, which was the winner of Japan's Grand Prix fro Crime Fiction. As Fugai said: It "is as far from cherry blossoms and tea ceremony as you can get."

It's a perfect vacation book -- pulls you right out of your day-to-day and into a all-absorbing alternate universe. And yet it's an interesting sociological study on what makes women choose the dark side.

What struck me right away: the main characters are four unglamorous middle-aged woman who work the overnight shift in a boxed lunch factory. Very un-Hollywood. They are pals in only the most superficial way -- their jobs are a notch easier if they work together as a team and spend a few minutes at the end of their shift gossiping.

They are all trapped in loveless relationships and scrambling for money just to get by. They work the night shift because it pays well, yet it isolates them even more and leaves them no energy for figuring out what to do.

They're stuck. 

Then, in a sudden rage, one of the women kills her lying husband. In a panic, she calls one of her factory friends. It is something akin to relief for her friend Masako, not to feel numb anymore, to be called upon for a fast, clever solution to getting rid of the body.

The crisis galvanizes the four numbed women. Each of them grabs an opportunity in the situation in the only way they know how. They are each greedy and corrupt  in their own way, but you still find yourself rooting for them. It is "Treasure of the Sierra Madre" rewritten for working-class women.

Is it the story of moral rot or the story of survival in a heartless world? The are not portrayed as victims -- they have made their own choices. Their choices may have been bad, but life doesn't allow do-overs so they get stuck with the consequences. In the end, they reminded me of borderline personality girls, who cut themselves for reassurance that they are real. Danger and the risk of self-annihilation is preferable to numbness.

 

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