South of the Border, West of the Sun (Hardcover)
Alfred A. Knopf, 9780375402517, 224pp.
Publication Date: January 1, 1999
Hajime -- "Beginning" in Japanese -- was an atypical only child growing up in a conventional, middle-class suburb. Shimamoto, herself an only child, was cool and self-possessed, precocious in the extreme. Childhood sweethearts, the two would meet after school to listen to records, hold hands, and talk about their future. Now in his late 30s, a married father and successful nightclub owner, finally content after years of directionless struggle, Hajime finds himself reunited with Shimamoto and propelled into the mysterious realm of her life and the dark secrets she is loath to reveal. Swarmed by enchantment and desire, he prepares to risk everything for the chance to consummate his first love.
Bittersweet, passionate, and ultimately redemptive, this is a love story about the need to look back in order to move ahead, illuminating just how much, and how little, people change over time.