A man and woman separate, and agree to keep the separation private until they figure out what they're doing. The man travels to Greece on research; the woman moves in with someone new. The man's mother calls the woman about the man: has she heard from him? Could she go to Greece and find him? The woman goes to Greece, intending to find him and ask for a divorce.
And so Katie Kitamura's A Separation begins...
The novel was almost entirely the inner thoughts of the woman, who remains unnamed throughout the course of the novel. I got sucked in: what happened to Christopher (the man)?! Why did he want to keep their separation a secret? The story is suspenseful, and ends with no closure. Kitamura has said she prefers "morally fantastic" fiction, saying "I’m very interested in setting up a situation with a moral question at the heart of it. I’m a relatively polite person, but to find the elasticity of the scene, of that situation where things are far beyond polite, is really interesting to me as a fiction writer. How people who think of themselves as good people behave in bad ways. My French translator told me, 'I find your characters really unlikable!'" And this is exactly what she has done, superbly, in A Separation: a morally fantastic tale about grief. The plot's tension, according to Kitamura, drives from "dread and claustrophobia."
On a side note: I also just finished a novel by Kitamura's husband, Hari Kunzru, White Tears, which is the story of two white college kids who try and pass off a recording of an old black chess player in Washington Square Park as an old blues record. It turns into a fantastical, surreal tale of violence, and I put it down confused and unsatisfied.
But Kitamura! I loved her book! Slow-build around a woman who doesn't understand her emotions in a very emotional time in her life.