Twenty-year-old Taguchi Hiro has spent the last two years of his life living as a hikikomori—a shut-in who never leaves his room and has no human interaction—in his parents’ home in Tokyo. As Hiro tentatively decides to reenter the world, he spends his days observing life around him from a park bench. Gradually he makes friends with Ohara Tetsu, a middle-aged salaryman who has lost his job but can’t bring himself to tell his wife, and shows up every day in a suit and tie to pass the time on a nearby bench. As Hiro and Tetsu cautiously open up to each other, they discover in their sadness a common bond. Regrets and disappointments, as well as hopes and dreams, come to the surface until both find the strength to somehow give a new start to their lives.
“I reached out my hand towards you, and, that’s the answer to your question, perhaps it really is this reaching out, this reaching towards someone else, that’s needed most of all.”
Flašar’s writing is exquisite, her words flow with such fluidity, absolutely stunning as the two protagonists pensively share their anguish.
A young hikikomori bonds with a mature unemployed businessman, both shouldering heavy burdens, self-imposed alienation as well as questions on existentialism. A slow mutual unveiling releases the pain these two have carried unknown to others. They open their hearts and openly share their many trials and tribulations, disappointments as each shares their perspective, shedding new light on what’s revealed.
The beautiful aspect of this book, you find solace in others when you least expect it and realize you needed someone all along to unload the burdens you carry, the other requiring the same balm. A sincere story of emotional shedding, of forgiving yourself, a truly memorable novel equally intense and beautiful.
•Paperback, 133 pages
•Published September 9th 2014 by New Vessel Press (first published 2012)