Please Save Me
Author: Risa Wataya
Specifications: ISBN  978-4022514455
222 pages
13.6 x 19.5 cm / 5.4 x 7.8 in (WxH)
Category: Fiction
Publisher: Asahi Shimbun Publications Inc.
Tokyo, 2017
publications.asahi.com
Buy now: amazon.co.jp

Synopsis

A woman who prefers to keep to herself begins a somewhat tentative relationship with a man but then finds herself unraveling. In spite of the serious subject matter, author Risa Wataya keeps the reader engaged with the same witty and nimble prose found in her other recent works.

Narrator Mitsuko Kuroda, 32, has no self-esteem, tends to sink into negativity (especially as relates to love relationships), and is averse to things like fashion or cooking or other pursuits she associates with femininity. She has no boyfriend and hardly any friends, even female ones. Although she manages to hold a job, she is happiest when she is simply keeping to herself, going about her solitary ways.

The one friend in whom she does confide and from whom she can seek reliable advice is “A”—except that A is only a voice in her own head, an imaginary alter ego who always responds in a composed, male voice. Mitsuko invented him when she was a highly self-conscious adolescent in need of someone who empathized with her situation and who could calmly and gently offer the advice she sought. She has in effect cultivated him as the perfect romantic partner ever since.

The action begins when the opportunity for real-life romance presents itself to Mitsuko in the form of Tada, a man her own age who works for one of her company’s business clients. Although Mitsuko has never had direct contact with him in the course of her own duties, she has frequently seen Tada coming and going at the office. Then she runs into him on a shopping street near her apartment and learns that he also lives in the area. Following this meeting, they begin an unusual relationship in which, roughly once a month, Tada visits Mitsuko’s apartment with kitchen containers in hand and takes freshly cooked meals home with him. Mitsuko tries asking him in, but he declines every time—and in truth, she prefers it that way, since she’s not comfortable having others enter her personal space. As a matter of fact, since she rarely cooks for herself, she’d rather not be cooking for him either, but she feels compelled to do so whenever he emails her. A couple of years ago she had attempted to woo a neighborhood dentist, with disastrous results. Still stinging from the experience, she has been telling herself that she’s finished with romance. But with A nudging her along, she finally persuades Tada to come inside and sit down to a meal with her. Gradually she begins to change.

A new year arrives. In February Nozomi, a senior colleague at work, invites Mitsuko and Tada to go to Tokyo Disneyland with her and an oblivious colleague she has a crush on. In Mitsuko’s life as a loner, Disneyland has always loomed as one of those places you can’t go by yourself, so she is delighted. Once there, Tada takes advantage of an opportunity when the two of them are alone to ask her to go out with him, and she consents. Following this, A stops responding when Mitsuko tries to talk to him. Is he gone for good? Is he merely throwing a jealous fit?

The final hurdle for Mitsuko proves to be sex. Before the winter is out, she and Tada rent a car to drive to a distant shopping mall on what is supposed to be a day trip, but they are forced to find lodgings for the night due to a sudden snowstorm that rolls in. When Tada tries to take her in his arms shortly after they get to their room, Mitsuko pushes him away and flees out the door. Feeling like she is completely falling apart mentally and emotionally, she momentarily passes out—and then she hears the gentle voice of A calling to her again. . .

On close inspection, narrator Mitsuko is merely detailing the fancies she entertains in her head, and yet her story is irresistibly captivating, no doubt especially so for women readers also in their early thirties. Wataya’s latest shows the steady growth of an author who made her literary debut at the remarkably young age of 17.