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Modern Japan can be a lonely place. Especially in Tokyo, where sometimes it seems everyone is walking around in cones of silence and is too shy or afraid to talk to strangers. You can see it in the statistics too, which say that 32 percent of households in Japan are single-occupant and that many people (30 percent of men and 23 percent of women by 2030) will never marry. It’s sad but true.

With this in mind, “Vibrator” by Mari Akasaka explores how the stress of such a lonely culture could affect the psyche of a single and emotionally fragile woman. The book opens with Rei Hayakawa, a 31-year-old freelance journalist, late at night in a convenience store, wondering what wine to buy. Her rambling thoughts of loneliness, hunger and of her need for alcohol flow in a stream of consciousness that for the reader can be confusing at first. Akasaka, however, handles Rei’s internal monologue beautifully and it is through the voices in her head that Rei’s situation is revealed.

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