Marrying into a family is scary territory, I would imagine. You might know the person you’re marrying but what of the people they live with? And who exactly were they before they wooed you in. Maybe you worry too much? Or maybe your worries are not so unfounded? Maybe it’s more terrible than you thought. These are the ideas explored in author Asa Nonami’s Now You’re One of Us, a novel I’m surprised isn’t more talked about in literary horror circles. While keeping in mind that I’m not exactly an authority when it comes to what works for most readers, I’d definitely like to share my thoughts with you.
WHAT IS IT?
Written by Asa Nonami, first published in Japanese as “Anki” in 1993, and translated to English by Michael Volek and Mitsuko Volek in 2007, “Now You’re One of Us” is a psychological horror novel about a woman named Noriko Hashimoto who moves in with the Shito family after she marries Kazuhito. Soon after strange events occur that make Noriko suspect her new family may be up to sinister activities.
WHAT DID I LIKE ABOUT THE BOOK?
Asa Nonami writes in uncomplicated prose that’s easy to follow but not without depth. The book is about calculated gestures and she knows when to play it casually for the more observant reader to latch on to and when to explicitly raise some red flags. The book is written in third person but we are with Noriko throughout in her uncertainty, worries, anxieties, and the like. While the narrative paints the Shito family in a bad light, based on Noriko’s observations, we’re also left doubting her thoughts as potential culture shock, considering the environment she’s transplanted to after coming a much different home.
That being said, I liked that the book doesn’t really have “gotcha!” moments. Everything is played out casually like it’s all normal, even when the story goes to some truly disgusting places. It’s not a gory book, per se, mind you. However, the plot threads established early in the book are given a more disturbing and sinister payoff than I expected. No ghosts or monsters could compare to how seemingly simple it is to break down a person’s mental walls.
WHAT DIDN’T I LIKE ABOUT THE BOOK?
There’s not much for me to dislike other than a couple of beats repeated back-to-back, such as Noriko suspecting something is wrong, then finds out something that makes her seem foolish. Other than that, it was a near perfect, nauseating experience.
Now You’re One of Us is a hidden gem of a horror novel that’s leisurely paced but reads fast. It will take you on a journey of discovering secrets that are definitely not meant for everyone to see. If you thought your family was gross, you haven’t met the Shito family.
Dustin is a horror fan and sometimes short story writer who hails from the Philippines. He likes a lot of the horror genre but usually goes for slashers and arthouse/slowburn stuff. Currently, he’s trying to make up for lost time in the horror literature world by digesting as many horror books as he can.