By Fernanda Eberstadt
By Katie Kitamura
229 pp. Riverhead Books. $25.
When I was young, I felt a high-minded scorn for the whodunits my elders favored: mystery novels that inducted you into the specificities of British racecourses or Native American reservations while satisfying the same itch for neat solutions as my father’s games of solitaire, my mother’s crossword puzzles. Back then, suspense struck me as a cheap trick, like tickling the sole of a baby’s foot or cooking with scads of butter. The novels I loved occasionally included a murder — sometimes even a police inspector whose investigation actually produced the culprit — but the real question at stake wasn’t “Who killed the old bastard?” but “Is there a God, and if there isn’t, why should we be good?”
Now that I’m older, I have a grudging respect for the mystery novel and its resourceful practitioners, writers whose art depends on catching the world-weary reader unawares. Suddenly I too can see the point of having my questions answered, the teasing threads unknotted, cases closed.
Katie Kitamura would seem to share my youthful disregard for closure. In her third novel, “A Separation,” she has created a kind of postmodern mystery in which we end up with a dead body, evidence of a violent crime, an abundant trail of clues and even angry mourners, yet nobody feels compelled to pursue the investigation. There is something unknowable in human nature, the novel seems to assume, something better left unexamined. “Once you begin to pick at the seams,” we are told, “all deaths are unresolved.” Read more
Source: The New York Times