The narrator of this deeply affecting and meticulously crafted novel meets a young woman named Shino, a waitress at a local restaurant near the university he attends. Emboldened by a night of drinking, he approaches her. She promises to see him the next evening, but when they meet again, he is reluctant to reveal the details of his life. Eventually Shino learns that of the six children in his family, two committed suicide, two disappeared, and one is handicapped. His fear that his blood may be tainted has hounded him, his birthright a constant struggle with his life's very essence. Because of that, he's a survivor, a role he shares with Shino, who had to overcome the shame of her own family's low status. Their determination to find a measure of happiness and solace leads them to begin a new life together.
Told in six interlocking sections, Shame in the Blood builds layer upon layer as readers learn the particulars of this haunting couple. Births, deaths, illness, and discovery combine to form a graceful testimony to youthful love and marital commitment. Tinged with sadness and unfolded in a Mishima-like sequence where each event, detail, or circumstance is repeated with slightly different emphasis or recast from another point of view, it is a stunning achievement in the greatest tradition of Japanese literature. (Spring 2008 Selection)