Farrar. May 2020. 368p. ISBN 9780374158231. $28. F
Yoshie Watanabe, a retired electronics company executive and physically and emotionally scarred survivor of Hiroshima, makes a trip to Fukushima shortly after the 9.0 magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunami struck Japan and caused radioactive fallout from the nearby nuclear reactor. As the title indicates, Watanabe’s life is fractured as he moves around the globe with career transfers, failing to maintain a relationship for more than a few years. Equally fractured is the novel’s structure, with the text broken into sizable chunks that alternate between the narrator, who traces Yoshie’s nomadic life from his boyhood in the mid-1940s to his retirement in the 21st century, and narratives by Watanabe’s international assortment of lovers in Paris, New York, Buenos Aires, and Madrid. The Alfaguara Prize–winning Neuman succeeds in individualizing and exposing his female characters based entirely on their monologs, a format that recalls his earlier Talking to Ourselves. He also cautions about the dangers of repeated nuclear disaster from Hiroshima to Fukushima.
VERDICT The fragmented and destructive power wielded by memory and trauma in developing one’s outlook on life, coupled with a two-pronged narrative technique for character development, makes Neuman’s latest a winner.

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