Though Kono is absorbed with domestic life, she pushes the conventional limits of realism by exposing the ways in which the rules of domesticity are artificial, provisional, or self-imposed.
The novel falters on the promise of its original plotting by resorting to cursorily drawn characters, prose that is often simply convenient or overreaching for poetry, and an unjustifiably cruel world.
The novel’s power, in large part due to its sequencing of events, lies in the sense that the first chapter’s point of jadedness becomes inevitable, a naturally unnatural response to a lifetime of thwarted dreams.
What is most characteristic of this collection is this hunger for interconnectedness, a genuine belief that books are rewritings of other books, that the novel is not so novel.
These linked essays most closely resemble sessions of confession painfully eked out through much self-flagellation. The series of ruminations are a geography of particular obsessions.
These circular stories are never organized into tidy sequences of events. Rather, they collect data around certain catastrophic experiences that remain nebulous and unknowable.
There is always the sense that Spiegel’s narrators are learning and relearning the rules of propriety; that they are struggling to negotiate public expectations.