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The Laws of Evening: Stories Paperback – May 25, 2004
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Chicago Tribune An impressive collection from a young writer exploring subjects of immense intrinsic value...assured and complex.
Vogue [A]n elegant debut....With unnerving subtlety [Waters] navigates the ways people in exile find comfort in the everyday traditions they cannot bear to leave behind.
Elle Resonant and deeply felt...each story has the multi-faceted clarity of a rare gem.
Los Angeles Times Muted and delicate, Waters' stories ache with loss.
San Francisco Chronicle As meticulous as origami....Waters...lets nothing get past her in this splendid book.
About the Author
Mary Yukari Waters is half Japanese and half Irish-American. The recipient of an O. Henry award, a Pushcart Prize, and a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, she has been published in The Best American Short Stories 2002 and 2003, The Pushcart Book of Short Stories: The Best Stories from a Quarter-Century of the Pushcart Prize, and Francis Ford Coppola's Zoetrope 2 anthology. She earned her MFA from the
Top customer reviews
Unlike some short story collections by a single author, each story in TLE stands on its own and explores a different element of Japanese society. Waters is able to avoid seeming to rewrite the same story over and over. The primary commonality across all stories is that they explore incidents in the lives of average middle-class Japanese people. Waters focuses her attention on the characters' thoughts and feelings, and uses their actions to illuminate her characters' personal philosophies on life and living. The characters in her stories typically place limitations on their actions and formulate routines that end up defining their roles in their families and society. There is also an underlying theme of the rapid modernization of Japan, and the adaptation that Japanese citizens have therefore had to undergo to transform their culture and society. Waters explores these themes with descriptive, precise prose and interesting plot lines, and the result is a collection of very well-crafted stories.
I would be hard-pressed to choose a most favorite story in this collection or to identify a dud - they were all enjoyable and insightful. I plan to reread these stories again in the future, when I want a refresh on Japan. For anyone with an interest in getting inside the minds of average, everyday people in modern Japanese society, I highly recommend "The Laws of Evening".
Out of a typically edgy landscape, rife with divisions and disconnections, both big and small, the author conjures recurring instances of the painful, hesitant acknowledgment of a changed reality ("The Laws of Evening are not the Laws of Afternoon"). From this acceptance ensues a transformation of the present and a renewed, broader connection to life.
My personal favorites in the collection are Seed, Shibusa and Rationing, each of which is associated with astonishing images of pain and growth that have a heart-breaking intensity to them.
The writing is careful, poised and conveys with precision the nuances of feeling of the protagonists. The author skillfully creates a backdrop to the stories that is cool and restrained (sometimes to the point of eerieness) prior to the reader being swept into the visceral resonance of experience that is profound and deeply moving. This, in my opinion, is writing at its best.
The sentiments above as spoken by a Mother to her daughter in the penultimate story, `The Way Love Works' in Mary Yukari Waters's "The Laws of Evening," pretty much sums up this short story collection as a whole.
Yukari has chosen to focus on the years in Japan surrounding the Second World War in this collection of stories and specifically, for the most part on the Japanese women's view of things.
Each story is well crafted, many are precious, snapshot views of the War and all have to do with relationships. Much of the writing is quite beautiful and a much of it is extremely revealing and psychologically true, as in this description of a son's relationship with his father: "Outsiders would not understand their exchange. They would not see that his father, far from begging for sympathy, would have considered it out of place. The truth was that there was an understanding; they had no need for embarrassing displays. Saburo thought of the railroad they were drafting at work, its parallel rails never touching, yet exquisitely synchronized, committed in their separateness as they curved though hill and valley. That he was comfortable with. That, he could do."
Mary Yukari Waters is a fresh, gentle voice whose writing, on the other hand, reveals a dagger like precision especially when applied to the mysteries and intricacies of Mother/Daughter and Father/Son relationships. I look forward to Yakari-Waters mixing it up a bit in her next book: maybe a novel about the Japanese Youth Culture or one about the Japanese American situation in America during WWII?
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Title The Laws of Evening
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