“I went on crying. The tears wouldn’t stop. It was like there was another me, totally separate, ignoring the real me, and crying like crazy.”
I can’t think of a better description for what this book represents than this quote right here, up above this review, which I hope comes out sounding coherent.
Parade by Shuichi Yoshida is a story about four distinctly different individuals who all reside in a small two-bedroom Tokyo apartment. How these four came to be together is a matter of happenstance due to life’s quirky humour. They end up developing a friendship that they don’t even realize exists; their connections to one another that much more attuned than they could have imagined, and it’s brilliantly executed.
You have Ryosuke Sugimoto, a college student who ends up starting an affair with his best friend’s girlfriend. Kotomi Okochi is a young woman who devotedly sits by the telephone awaiting a former boyfriend’s call so they can go have random sex. Mirai Souma is another young lady who goes out drinking every night, sharing late night theatrics with a bunch of gay men. Finally, there’s Naoki Ihara, the responsible one of the four-some, who works long hours as an aspiring filmmaker.
This hodgepodge of individuality forms the blob that resides in apartment 401. Day in and day out they share the details of their daily lives, no matter how scandalous, like a distant relative asking for you to pass the butter at the breakfast table. While their conversations are casual and relaxed, beneath the glaze of each of them, resides dark secrets from their pasts that have been meticulously incubated through trials and tribulations of being an adolescent and then an adult. The result of this pregnancy reveals itself through actions that are taken during the two-hundred-thirty pages of this novel.
The book is written in five chapters with each chapter being the perspective of one of the characters, and an extra mystery person who shows up in the first half of the book. Talking about this stranger would be construed as giving a spoiler, so I’m not going to touch it. I will say that it is someone who tosses the precarious balance that the four-some have developed into array, which then creates a cause-and-effect type of situation that makes the reading even more bizarre. Each perspective is expressed in great detail, taking into account the ambience of city life. Everything is very fast-paced and bustling. There is a scene described where one of the roommates is watching the autonomy of cars stopping and going at a lighted intersection. This natural order of things is an element of the city that fascinates him; these cars moving and stopping without ever getting into an accident. There’s another scene that takes place in an office, where folks wearing suits, ties, and stockings shuffle papers and answer phone calls, illustrating the atypical work-day of another character. These come together to formulate an in-depth look at how functional and routine city living are for most people.
While this can sound down-right boring, and it just may be boring as fuck for many readers, I found it to be positively engrossing. Even though I live in a small city (so to speak), I rarely step outside of my own home. To be able to get a glimpse of how things work in a totally different environment than what I know as “comfortable” is quite riveting. It also helps establish the working order of the small household in apartment 401.
The prose is careful, intellectual, and scrupulous with anecdotes and life-lessons hidden away in drunken or vulnerable situations. On some level, I began to formulate a sort of love-hate relationship with each of the characters. I grew to love specific traits (such as bluntness and kindness), but I just couldn’t help myself and began to loathe the poor decisions that these kids continue to make out of comfort or fear. It can be excruciatingly frustrating, yet simultaneously it’s enlightening. I was bitch-smacked in the face with my own fears and denial about certain aspects of my life that I’m just not ready to face. The people, each of them, end up inhabiting some titbit of empathetic morsels that you never truly see coming. Makes you realize that you really can’t know everything there is to know of any one person.
Parade is a deeply provocative novel with complex characters, but it is a slow read. I’m already a slow-reader to begin with, so it took me much longer to finish these two-hundred pages than normal. The diligently way it’s written, makes you want to focus on every word to get every inch of the larger picture, which isn’t a bad thing, but it can stir boredom or restlessness for long reading sessions. The book is also a bit anti-climactic. You go on and on absorbing information about four people, hoping for some kind of catastrophic explosion at the end, but it never arrives. There is a huge shock that does occur eventually, however, it’s in the last ten pages and way that it’s dealt with is very unsatisfactory.
While it works for this book, it’s not something everyone can pick up and enjoy, and not something that will work for other books. If you need more action, or fast-paced occurrences within a novel to hook your interest, then you should pass on Parade. The bulk of the “action” just won’t be worth it to you. Nonetheless, if you are the type of person who enjoys reading about wholly complicated people with some deep, dark shit hiding underneath their mask of smiles and how-do-you-dos, then definitely pick it up.
3.5 rainstorms out of 5!