Centering on an infant abduction, this novel offers an acute look at mother-daughter rivalry. The story begins in February 1985. In the first half, Kiwako Nonomiya, 29, abducts the six-month-old baby girl Erina Akiyama and goes on the run. Erina's father Takehiro, 34, is Kiwako's superior at work, and they have been having an affair. Forced to get an abortion after becoming pregnant with Takehiro's child the previous year, Kiwako cannot tolerate that Takehiro now has a child with his wife, and after tracking their movements, finds an opportunity to make off with the baby. She names her Kaoru and flees westward?first to Nagoya, then to a religious community in Nara, and from there to an island in the Seto Inland Sea?pretending to be mother and daughter and dependent upon the kindness of strangers. Three and a half years later, in September 1988, Kiwako is arrested, and the four-year-old Erina is returned safely to her parents.
The second half of the tale jumps forward to 2005, and switches to the perspective of Erina, now 20 and in college. Because of her early experiences as an abductee, she has never quite been able to establish a normal bond with her parents. Thanks to the relentless media coverage at the time, she has also had to live with the knowledge that her father had an affair with Kiwako, as well as that her mother had directed threats at Kiwako and been involved in her own extramarital dalliance. As a student, Erina herself takes up with a married man, and when she becomes pregnant, shudders to realize that she has followed precisely in Kiwako's footsteps.
A highly polished entertainment that tugs at the reader's heart, the novel became a bestseller and was subsequently adapted into both a television series and a feature film.