To an Incomparable Other

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To an Incomparable Other
Author: Kazufumi Shiraishi
Specifications: ISBN  978-4396633288
295 pages
13.0 x 19.2 cm / 5.2 x 7.7 in (WxH)
Category: Fiction
Publisher: Shodensha Inc.
Tokyo, 2009
Awards: Naoki Prize, 2009
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A man and a woman, both from well-to-do families, respectively figure in this pair of novellas about love. The title work centers on Akio, the third son of a distinguished family whose great-grandfather was a successful entrepreneur. Whereas his father and both his older brothers are talented academics, Akio was a mediocre student and now at 27 makes his living as a sales rep for a sports manufacturer. Akio’s wife Nazuna is a beautiful younger woman he married two years ago against his family’s wishes after meeting her at the cabaret where she worked. One day Nazuna suddenly leaves him to go back to her hostessing; as she confesses, she is carrying on an affair with a childhood friend, although the man, too, is married with a family of his own. Akio’s plaints find a sympathetic ear in his boss Michiko, and little by little he becomes attracted to this self-proclaimed “homely” woman six years his senior. Although he briefly goes back to Nazuna, he divorces her when he is transferred to China. Upon his return he marries Michiko, whom he nurses through relapsed lung cancer and eventual death.

The second tale, Kakegae no nai hito e (To an Irreplaceable Other), reverses the premise: this time the role of protagonist falls to a privileged woman whose father is the president of a power-line company and mother the head of a hospital pediatrics ward. Although engaged to an elite company colleague her own age, the woman finds herself enthralled by the sexual expertise of a former boss in his forties. Through both scenarios the author calls on us to reexamine our own life choices.