ME by Tomoyuki Hoshino, translated by Charles De Wolf [in Booklist]
The back cover insists ME “centers on the ‘It’s me’ telephone scam” in which a caller often targets the elderly, seeking funds to cover a false emergency. The ploy is more a brief narrative catalyst here; McDonald’s, in comparison, gets enough pagetime to make the novel occasionally resemble an extended advertisement.
Japanese electronics store employee Hitoshi Nagano’s usual McDonald’s lunch is interrupted by a cell phone that mistakenly lands on his tray; nonchalantly, he takes it home. He calls owner Daiki Hiyama’s mother and persuades her to wire ¥900,000 immediately. Three days later, Mother Hiyama arrives at his door convinced Hitoshi is Daiki; when Hitoshi visits his own parents, a doppelgänger has already usurped his place. The (sur)reality is that Hitoshi is not unique: finding a few MEs initially provides comforting companionship until too many competing MEs create a violent anarchy.
Hoshino’s latest-in-translation (rendered by Japan-based professor Charles De Wolf) begins as black comedy and devolves into an anti-solipsistic treatise on the erasure of individual identity. Despite a thought-provoking afterword by Nobel Prized Kenzaburō Ōe (Hoshino won the 2011 Kenzaburō Ōe Prize), this muddled ME offers little clarity.
Review: modified from “Fiction,” Booklist Online, May 26, 2017
Published: 2017 (United States)