This is a collection of five stories set in the same suburban town, with key elements transpiring on the same rainy afternoon.
Santa no konai ie (The House where Santa Doesn’t Come) centers on Okano, a novice grade-school teacher, and a boy in his class who is being abused at home. Facing his first classroom as a teacher, Okano has difficulty maintaining control of all the different personalities among his charges and finds that his lessons don’t go as planned. But even as his sense of inadequacy mounts, he realizes that one of his students is a victim of abuse. He learns that the boy has been told by his stepfather not to come home until after 5:00, and that he’s not getting proper meals at home; there are also signs that he is being beaten. But the boy is convinced it’s all because he’s a bad boy; that’s also why Santa doesn’t come to his house, he says. Though he feels scarcely up to the task, Okano does everything he can to refute the boy’s interpretation of what is happening to him, and to get him to stop blaming himself . . .
Beppin-san (Pretty Girl) is the story of a young mother who beats her daughter due to the lingering trauma of the abuse she suffered at her own mother’s hand as a little girl. In Usotsuki (Liar), a friend’s father speculates about the state of mind of a boy who is being abused by his stepmother. Konnichi wa, sayonara (Hello Goodbye) portrays interactions between an elderly neighbor woman and a young mother struggling with the challenges of raising an autistic son. In Ubasute-yama (Taking Granny Up the Mountain), a woman who was abused by her mother while growing up reflects on their long-ago history together in advance of her mother being admitted to a memory care facility.
In one way or another, all of the stories take up the troubling subject of child abuse, but in each case the author also leaves readers with a ray of hope.