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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

Now You're One of Us

Nonami Asa

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To purchase Now You're One of Us

Title: Now You're One of Us
Author: Nonami Asa
Genre: Novel
Written: 1993 (Eng. 2007)
Length: 239 pages
Original in: Japan
Availability: Now You're One of Us - US
Now You're One of Us - UK
Now You're One of Us - Canada
  • Japanese title: 暗鬼
  • Translated by Michael and Mitsuko Volek

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Our Assessment:

B : enjoyably creepy

See our review for fuller assessment.

The complete review's Review:

       In Now You're One of Us Noriko marries into the Shito family. She met her husband, Kazuhito, through a matchmaker, but it was "love at first sight". The only thing that worried her -- and led her mother to advise her to reject the proposal -- was that he was the eldest son of a close-knit family: Noriko would have to move in with them, and she didn't know whether she could handle four generations of Shitos.
       The arrangement gives some insight into Japanese ways, past and present, as: "marrying into a family that large was unthinkable in this day and age". In fact, there are only eight of them -- though spread over four generations -- but such an arrangement still might leave a woman marrying into (and moving in with) such a family overburdened and feeling left out; certainly it's a far cry from marrying a man and starting a life together just as a couple. Still, they all seem friendly enough ..... But the game-playing begins early on: it's only after she's said yes that she learns that her future husband's younger brother "suffered from a mild mental handicap" (in fact, he has has the mental abilities of about a five-year-old) and that the grand-father is bed-ridden -- facts that certainly would have weighed heavily against her agreeing to become part of this clan.
       The Shitos are, however, a really jolly lot, always smiling, eager to please. They have a large compound, and grow lots of nice plants, and it's hard for Noriko not to believe this might work out after all.
       Inklings that she's still not quite in the loop as to exactly what is going on come soon enough. There are all those visitors the family matriarch, the ancient great-grandmother, gets. And there's a tenant who Noriko meets soon after moving in and who wants to tell her something but doesn't get around to it -- and then conveniently (while Noriko is away visiting her family) takes out his whole family in an apparent murder-suicide.
       There are more questions than answers: late night conversations suggesting a lot is being kept from her, suspicious behaviour, facts that don't seem to add up. And while it's nice that the sister is so devoted to the retarded boy, maybe they are a bit too close ..... And there are those plants.
       "It's not easy to understand another family", one of the Shitos says after the murder-suicide, and Noriko certainly feels the same way. Now You're One of Us proceeds enjoyably creepily, the Shito-façade a smile that can't be wiped from their faces it seems, adding to the sinister feel. Nonami can't pace it ideally -- starting strong but finding it difficult to dose the revelations and changes evenly -- but there's still considerable fun in trying to figure just what is wrong with these people.
       Noriko does have a couple of hysterical outbursts, but the Shitos can always explain her concerns away -- and, incredibly (even to Noriko), never seem to take offence, regardless of her accusations. Pretty much. And while Noriko has a friend she can confide in, Tomomi, she's just as suspicious about her motives, assuming her to be jealous of what to all outward appearances looks like her good fortune in marrying into such a fine family.
       Eventually there is a change, and it comes down to Noriko becoming one of them or not, with Nonami nicely tying it together both with what becomes of Noriko as well as Tomomi (and the friend she foolishly brings over, who is very eager to see those plants ...).
       The book presumably reads differently -- and is much more charged -- for Japanese readers: the significance of bloodlines, as well as the obligations within families make this particular scenario a much creepier one in that culture than in the West, but there's enough manipulation and evil here to entertain even those that don't take these sorts of things as seriously.
       Now You're One of Us is a decent little horror story of marrying into a strange family and the choices one has to make -- with an interesting dose of Japanese culture, mores, and history tossed in. A lot is far-fetched, but it comes with a nice enough little payoff in the end.

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Now You're One of Us: Reviews: Other books by Nonami Asa under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Prolific Japanese author Nonami Asa (乃南アサ) was born in 1960.

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© 2007-2021 the complete review

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