Hiroko Oyamada has spun a beguiling tale and the comparison to David Lynch is certainly spot-on. In The Hole mundane exchanges and places acquire a surreal quality while the author’s easy prose is brilliantly juxtaposed against her story’s growingly eerie atmosphere.
After her husband’s job transfer, Asa moves outside of the city with him. The two settle in the countryside, in a house owned by his family that happens to be just next to their (Asa’s in-laws) home. After years spent working precarious or temporary positions, Asa suddenly finds herself with plenty of time to spare. She looks half-heartedly for jobs in the local area but to no avail. At times her feelings of boredom and frustration—at having nothing to do or no one to talk to—brought to mind Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s The Yellow Wall-Paper. Asa’s few interactions with her mother-in-law and her husband’s grandfather are unsettling. The creepy feeling is enhanced by the fact that there is nothing glaringly wrong with these exchanges but one is nevertheless left with a sense of unease. Things take an even more peculiar turn when Asa catches sight of a weird animal and ends up in a hole.
Oyamada provides no resolution for the odd things Asa sees, hears, or feels. To me, this made the story somewhat unsatisfying. Still, I loved Oyamada’s vivid imagery and setting (I could basically hear the cicadas and feel the sticky heat on my skin). I also appreciated that the story worked as a metaphor about the pressure Japanese society places on women. If you are a fan of stories that blend realism with the bizarre, plus a dash of the uncanny, you might want to give Oyamada’s The Hole a shot.
my rating: ★★★¼
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