The Laws of Evening – Mary Yukari Waters
4.5 out of 5 stars
The Laws of Evening is “as meticulous as origami”, the blurb from San Francisco Chronicle on the front cover promises. And I have to admit that I have yet to find a better description for this short story collection.
A few months ago I admitted to Kinna from Kinna Reads that I never, or rarely, read short stories. She recommended a few titles to me and The Laws of Evening by Mary Yuraki Waters was one of them. I couldn’t believe my luck when the book popped up on bookmooch a month ago and I was even happier when it arrived in my mailbox, because it looks as good as new. I am sorry to say that this book will not go the same way that most bookmooch copies go. I don’t think I want to part with this volume just yet.
As I had expected, reading short stories took some getting used to but it was hardly as unfamiliar as I thought it would be. The stories in this collection are so well-written that it is hard not to get engrossed in them from the very start. The only time it took some adjusting was when I had finished the one story and moved on to the next. I had trouble leaving some of the characters in the stories behind. But then I realised that this is what makes these stories so powerful: within a few pages, you start to feel for the characters and their story in a manner I had hardly thought possible.
The stories in The Laws of Evening are set in post-World War II Japan. They mostly display the life stories or reflections on lives caught between the shadow of the war and the Westernisation of the country. Most of them are told from the perspective of women, with the exception of two. And I found it refreshing that the stories revolve around people from different age-groups: the main-characters include teens, mothers and elderly people.
If that wasn’t enough to make me fall in love with the book, there’s something else. And really, I believe that this is what turns this collection into such a treasure: the stories provide glimpses into the experiences of love and loss that we all, but these characters certainly, went through. There’s a tenderness and softness combined with the sadness and despair of loss, while all stories seem to emanate acceptance.
And then there’s the language, which manages to lift these themes up and put them on a higher level. As the daughter in the story “The Way Love Works” says, when she’s pondering the difference in her mother when she expresses herself in English or Japanese:
“I remember thinking that each language carried its own aura, its own mood, and that people fell under its spell.”
Mary Yukari Waters’ language has captivated me.