The main action of this novel by Hitomi Kanehara follows events in the lives of four men and women in their thirties as they grapple, each in his or her own way, with senses of loss or emptiness two years after the massive earthquake, tsunami, and Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant disaster of March 2011.
Shūto is a designer who lives with his family in Tokyo at the time of the triple disaster. In fear of the radioactive contamination spread by the power plant explosions, he sends his wife and daughter away from the capital and begins purchasing all of their food over the Internet. His wife thinks he is over-reacting, and the friction between them ultimately leads to divorce?with his wife taking custody of their only daughter. Shaken by the one-two punch of disaster and divorce, Shūto is unable to regain his footing in his formerly thriving career, and spends his days in idleness. Then Chizuru, an old friend who now lives with her husband in Singapore, calls to say she’s back in Tokyo and would like to see him. (Part 1: “Shu”)
After the two rendezvous at a hotel, Chizuru tells Shūto about her infant son who died about six months before the disasters, when she and her husband were posted to Paris. She is still unable to get over her grief and sense of loss. (Part 2: “Chizu”)
Chizuru’s younger sister Erina is a single mother who seems to have a free and easy life, living off the financial support provided by her American ex. Shortly after the disaster, with help from her ex, she moved with her daughter to London. Since then she has developed a circle of acquaintances?the mother of one of her daughter’s friends at school, several wives of Japanese businessmen on overseas assignment, and a young Belgian woman with her sights set on becoming a professional dancer?but she finds her life unfulfilling. (Part 3: “Eri”)
Akari is a stay-at-home mother and homemaker. She joined her husband in London immediately after the disaster, together with their only daughter, but she’s never been able to really settle in and grow comfortable with life in her adoptive home. Among her new acquaintances is Erina, whose freewheeling lifestyle and way of thinking seem utterly incomprehensible to her. Now, two years later, Akari finally gets to return to Japan, coming home a step ahead of her husband, but to her considerable annoyance, her unemployed brother-in-law and his wife are now ensconced in her home . . . (Part 4: “Akari”)
Four men and women of different backgrounds and circumstances and with differing attitudes toward life find their lives shaken by natural and manmade disasters, divorce, immigration, loss of family, and a host of other accidents and incidents that disrupt and begin to break down the peaceful existences they have heretofore enjoyed. Kanehara offers up vivid portraits of those who must somehow find the strength to persist in the face of realities they are powerless to control.