For Red
Author: Areno Inoue
Specifications: ISBN  978-4396634988
235 pages
13.5 x 19.5 cm / 5.4 x 7.8 in (WxH)
Category: Fiction
Publisher: Shodensha Inc.
Tokyo, 2016
Awards: Shibata Renzaburo Award, 2016
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The volume contains ten stories that portray with compelling force how the shadow of death can creep unexpectedly into human relationships. Author Areno Inoue is always at her best, and especially so in her short stories, when she is illuminating the fundamental impossibility of one person truly understanding another, and asking questions about the deep interpersonal crevasses that all people must negotiate throughout life—no matter how closely they may be related by blood, and no matter how perfect for each other they may appear to be as lovers or spouses.

The title story offers an edge-of-the-seat account of the relationship between Michi, a woman of about 70; Miyuki, the beloved daughter Michi bore when she was 30 and had doted on ever since; and Yōtarō, the CPA husband Miyuki married at the age of 35. Michi’s architect husband Shigekazu died of cancer shortly after Miyuki’s wedding. Miyuki and her husband then moved into the house that Shigekazu built, to live in a joint household with Michi. The two-generation household lasted less than three years: Miyuki slit her left wrist in the bath one morning and bled out before she was found.

A year after Miyuki’s death, Michi sells her house and moves into an assisted-care facility. Yōtaro comes to pick her up in his car and drive her to her new home. The story in essence recounts the conversation they have during this drive, through which readers learn the following:

The night before Miyuki commited suicide, Yōtaro had told her out of the blue that he wanted a divorce. The reason he gave was simply that he couldn’t bear to live in a shared household with his mother-in-law any longer; every day had become a sheer agony to him. Having seen from up close just how tight the relationship between Miyuki and her mother was, even abnormally so, he had found himself unable to suggest that they move out, and so as a kind of last-resort alternative, he had asked for a divorce instead.

Michi, for her part, is looking for a way to blame Yōtarō for Miyuki’s suicide. Her unusually close relationship with her daughter was largely responsible for the chill that had come over her daughter’s marriage, to the extent that the couple had been sleeping in separate bedrooms for over a year. But she doesn't see that connection, and instead attacks Yōtarō for his failure to notice that Miyuki might have become suicidal, insisting that as her husband he should have recognized the signs. She makes no secret of the fact that she has even suspected Yōtarō of killing her daughter.

In the final scene of the story, when he returns to the expressway after dropping Michi off at her new home, Yōtaro steps on the gas. The bright red sheet of blood that covered the face of the water on the morning Miyuki died spreads before his eyes . . .

A striking red bathing suit donned by an elderly woman, a red dress, the red of roses, the red of tomatoes or wine, and the red of blood: in each story Inoue has accented her weighty prose with brilliant blooms of red.