A lonely book. It is also angry, unflinching, and sometimes ashamed, afraid ... has the subtle, harrowing shades of Marie Darrieussecq’s My Phantom Husbandand Elena Ferrante’s The Days of Abandonment, though both were written decades later. Like these works, Tsushima’s novel chronicles the life of a woman who is in the process of reconstituting herself in the face of an absence. It is not a neat story of awakening or transformation but of the fearful joy of the unobscured horizon, of how the freshly unstructured life gapes with promise and paralysis alike ... an I-novel, a Japanese genre from the early twentieth century that now reads as a more beguiling, less embarrassed-sounding version of today’s autofiction ... In Tsushima’s unburdened territory, every corner is filled with light and there is nowhere to hide, for there need not be—not for those who seek illumination.
... this short novel has a timelessness to it. The denial and dislocation are portrayed in a straightforward fashion, and the translation, by Geraldine Harcourt, is spare and unsentimental ... [Sexism's] blatant nature — and the fact that the young mother accepts it as normal — is jarring. Much more compelling are the internal conflicts that make up the bulk of this novel. There is a sense of inevitability as the year ends, and the woman takes a new apartment. Only walking distance from her light-filled sanctuary, the new space represents a new life, another understated step along the journey she has made.
An uncannily subtle writer, Tsushima plays with light to point to obscurities ... Tsushima portrays the battle to keep going as a fight for life itself. Tsushima casts death as a recurring character who is always close to the action ... Where Ferrante is visceral in her portrayal of grief and disappointment, Tsushima is no less dark, but far more abstract.