By Haruki Murakami
Told between the hours of midnight and dawn, After Dark follows encounters that take place across the city of Tokyo. Mari Asai is sitting in a Denny’s when her sister’s friend, Takahashi, recognizes her. Takahashi’s presence is tolerated by Mari but when he leaves, he’s not missed. Shortly after, Mari, at the asking of Takahashi, meets Kaoru, a manager of a love hotel, who needs her help with a Chinese prostitute who’s been beaten by a customer. Acting as interpreter, Mari helps the woman but feels worse for it in the end as she’s left wondering what will happen to her. We look in on Mari’s sister, Eri, who is in a deep sleep, meet the man who beat up the prostitute, and return to Mari following her throughout the night and the people she meets.
After Dark exposes a raw nerve and at one point I even took a step back wondering where it was all going. There are dreams, actual sleeping dreams, life dreams, nightmares, sad memories, and happy ones. It’s an examination of lives, thoughts, friendships, and loves. All seen through the eyes of a woman on the verge of change who is not sure if she wants what she’s worked for.
The writing itself is incredible. The dialogue is smart, stark, and spare. No one character says more than needed, especially Mari, who has a secret but doesn’t want to share it. When she does, it’s with a stranger. It’s a poignant exchange for these two characters even though the conversation is very short and you know there’s a chance these two will never meet again. Maybe knowing this makes it easier for the two women to confide in each other knowing each of their secrets will stay that way but they get the added benefit of still being able to talk about it.
I came across this book completely by accident but it was so right at the time. If you come across it, I recommend you pick it up and read it. It’s truly phenomenal.