By Vanessa V. Friedman
December 20, 1996 at 05:00 AM EST

A Quiet Life

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A Quiet Life, Kenzaburo Oe’s fifth English-translated novel, portrays the life of one middle-class Japanbese family during a crisis in their carefully constructed world. When the father, a novelist, takes a visiting professorship in California, his wife joins him, and their daughter is left behind to run the house. It is through her eyes that the cracks in the family’s rigorously sanded facades are revealed: the fact that her retarded brother in many ways sees more clearly and takes more care of her than he’s ever credited with; the fact that her younger brother is less independent and more observant than he seems; the fact that her all-powerful father is less powerful, and less responsible, than he pretends to be. When one explosive event penetrates the monotony of these quiet epiphanies, bringing the mother home, it is to a different family she returns: one in which nobodies have become, at least in each other’s eyes, somebodies. A-

A Quiet Life

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