Imagine being a teacher and you found out that your only child was murdered by two of your students. How strong can a mother compose herself and take in what happened? How far can a mother go for her child? When does morality and conscience kick in? Will revenge be an answer?
This book has been on my radar for a while a now. And after a stretch of reading YA contemporary novels, I decided that I need a breather. So I picked this one up. A mystery/thriller book. Perfect. I’ve heard a lot of good things and endless praises for this book so I won’t deny that I started reading this book with a very high expectation. Just the synopsis of the book itself, I mean, who wouldn’t be intrigued by it. Students killing their teacher’s only child. Was it intentional? Was it on purpose? Will the mother seek her revenge? How will she do it? But she’s their teacher but I know that before being a teacher she was mother.
“If you’re always worrying about what other people think, you’ll never get any tougher.”
― Kanae Minato, Confessions
If you haven’t sensed it yet, I really enjoyed this book. It’s short and I was thinking before I started this book that, that might become a reason why I won’t enjoy it. But no, this book is perfect in being short. It kept me entertained and it kept me glued to the book until the end. Here I am again about Japanese authors. You all know how much I adore them. The atmosphere that they create when they write is very addicting (and which reminds me again that It’s been a while since I last read one). This is the first mystery/thriller book that I read from a Japanese author and yes, same feeling. The author was very successful in setting up an eerie atmosphere. Actually it’s on the verge from being eerie to creepy. Told in confessional tones, the book moves in alternating voices. From the teacher, to the two students who killed her daughter and to the parents of the students, you’ll definitely understand me why I said “creepy” when you read this book. At times dark and disturbing, be ready to be inside the minds of the narrators.
The book follows the story of Yuko Moriguchi, a science teacher at a middle grade school. The book begins at the end of the term, with her telling her students that she’s resigning from teaching and her students believed that it’s because of the tragedy that happened to her four year old daughter, Manami, her only child. The authorities ruled out the incident as an accident with the cause of death as drowning. But her students were shocked when their teacher began telling them that it was not an accident. That it was a murder. And that the murderers were inside their classroom. Two 13-year-old boys in her class. What follows is the the revenge of Yuko and the complexities and consequences that came with it.
Yuko is a single mother. Yuko’s husband left her when he discovered that he acquired HIV from his past that he got before they met. Fearing the safety of his child, they decided to part though they still have communication and still meet from time to time. You might be guessing what the revenge was, well, I was actually shock how Yuko orchestrated her revenge. I won’t be telling it here as it would be a spoiler. It was a revenge that I did not see coming. Thinking about it, it was more of a psychological attack to the two students.
“The world you live in is much bigger than that. If the place in which you find yourself is too painful, I say you should be free to seek another, less painful place of refuge. There is no shame in seeking a safe place. I want you to believe that somewhere in this wide world there is a place for you, a safe haven.”
― Kanae Minato, Confessions
Credits to the translator for making this book a simple read. Though being a simple read, the book did managed to captivate me in every page. It has straightforward narration. I like the twists and turns and I felt like every page turned gives out new revelations. There’s a thrill at every bend. Unpredictable. Unexpected. As the story progress so as its intensity. And the ending is just explosive. I mean literally. Better read it.
The book gave the characters enough background to be understood and to be questioned. I was able to understand what led the boys to do such acts. the book was able to showcase the character of the students who killed Yuko’s daughter. One is a genius but attention-seeking student who longs to be recognized for his evil inventions for his mother to notice him and come back. The other is born from a loving and overly supportive family. No, that’s an understatement, an overly supportive family. Specifically his mother who treats him like a boy who won’t even dare kill a fly. It’s kind of annoying reading her part of the book. Even if the truth was already laid out in front of her, she still tries to negate it by believing that his son has “reasons” in doing such actions. She blames people for the actions his son did.
I like how the author weaves the plot. It revolved around the consequences of actions. it’s hard to judge the actions of the characters in this book, especially the main character. There’s that feeling that she’s just being a mother but there’s also that feeling that he actions might be too much. But who am I to judge a single mother’s feelings. Someone who’s life revolves around her child. It became hard to take sides and sympathize from the characters without judging their actions. It became hard to distinguish who’s the victim and who’s the villain. It’s fascinating how this book played with me.
The themes of the book revolves around the dark side of the human nature. It became a question of the limits of moral boundaries. It became a study of the effects of the way we are shaped by our relationships with the people close to us. The book also did not shy away from giving a vivid picture of Japan life – educational system, familial functions and connections and justice system.
This book is a runaway bestseller in Japan when it was released in 2008. It was later adapted to a fil which became Japan’s entry for best foreign language film for the 2010 Oscars. I’m quite stoke now to start her next book which is Penance, which was just released.
If you are looking for an addicting and concise thought provoking psychological thriller. This is definitely it.
5 stars out of 5.
Author: Kanae Minato
Part of a Series: No
Release Year: August 2014
Publisher: Mulholland Books
No. of Pages: 240 pages
About the Author
Kanae MINATO (湊 かなえ, born 1973) is a Japanese writer of crime fiction and thriller.
She started writing in her thirties. Her first novel Confessions (告白, Kokuhaku) became a bestseller and won the Japanese Booksellers Award. The movie Confession directed by Tetsuya Nakashima was nominated to 2011 Academy Award.
She has been described in Japan as “the queen of iyamisu”(eww mystery), a subgenre of mystery fiction which deals with grisly episodes and the dark side of human nature.