Eriko Shimura is an attractive 30-year-old career woman who graduated from a top-ranked university and went to work for the largest trading firm in Japan, where her father was once a high-level executive. An only child, she still lives with her parents.
Shōko Maruo joined an apparel company after college, but had to resign for health reasons. Three years ago, she married the manager of the supermarket where she worked part-time; they have no children. She writes a blog in which she styles herself a dame okusan?a “no-good housewife”?and it’s begun to attract quite a following. She despises her indolent father, who barely lifts a finger as he lives off of a sizable inheritance from his father, and whose authoritarian attitudes drove her mother away.
Eriko is a dedicated reader of Shōko’s blog, and because they happen to live close by in central Tokyo, they run into each other at a café, get to talking, and hit it off. Eriko is something of a control freak who tries to push her values and opinions on others, so she has had difficulty making and keeping friends, male or female. Shōko is the sort who finds pretty much everything bothersome, and as a result is not very sociable. Both women crave a confidante, and as they continue to get to know each other through the blog, they begin to feel that they have finally found that friend. But then things begin to go terribly awry.
Fifteen years before, when Eriko started high school, a girl named Keiko who had been her best friend all through elementary and middle school fell in with a new crowd and stopped spending time with her. Eriko angrily began stalking Keiko, and spread malicious rumors about her at school?only to be exposed later as the source of the slander.
When Shōko fails to update her blog for a while, Eriko resurrects the stalker behavior from her teens. Feeling threatened, Shōko begins avoiding Eriko. All the more determined, Eriko follows Shōko to an aquarium where she had gone on an assignation with a young waiter from the café, and takes pictures of the two together. She blackmails Shōko to be her friend and hijacks her blog.
The two women’s relationship cannot possibly last. Shōko tells her husband about her affair and, fully expecting him to file for divorce, goes back to her parental home, where she happens to arrive just after her father has collapsed with a stroke. Her life is promptly taken over by her father’s need for care. Meanwhile, Eriko experiences a mental breakdown, rapidly puts on weight, stops taking care of her appearance, and begins absenting herself from work.
Eriko’s job at the trading company involves Nile perch, an African freshwater fish, which appears as a recurrent motif throughout the story. Strong and beautiful with a silver gleam, it is also an aggressive predator that dominates its surroundings?to the point that it can destroy an entire ecosystem.
Who can a woman really count on in the fierce battle for survival: Her parents? A man? A friend of her own sex? Author Asako Yuzuki skillfully explores the vulnerability and fears of women as they maneuver through a hostile world.