I have found a true Japanese gothic and I am head over heels in love! Now You’re One of Us is the story of a young woman that marries into a very large, traditional Japanese family. All members of the family live under the same roof in a sprawling estate, they welcome her with open arms and heap constant praise on her. She comes to love the family, but Noriko can’t help but feel that there is something off about this family.
Despite now being part of the family, Noriko feels like there is a wall between her and the Shito family. As she gets to know them, she starts to see or experience things that maybe aren’t quite right, and she begins to question herself as to whether or not she’s just being paranoid. The Shito’s have been so kind, almost overbearingly so.
“She thought of these people as family and had decided to devote her life to them, but she just couldn’t seem to dispel the strange feeling of alienation.”
Getting married and integrating into a new family is a terrifying experience for many women throughout history. Trust is a fragile thing, and it’s easy to feel that you’re alone when you’re surrounded by a family that is not your family. This was an intensely internal novel as Noriko struggles with her feelings about the Shito family, a mix of love and suspicion, and she begins to shrink into herself as she molds herself to the family. She gradually loses her autonomy as she finds her spirit crushed by the unbending force of the family.
The real horror of this novel is how true to life Noriko’s conflict is with a family that makes her uncomfortable. While reading, I was reminded of my own experiences meeting the extended family of my high school boyfriend (we intended to marry). He had an uncle who was clearly mentally ill and acted out in extremely creepy ways, but the entire family disregarded everything and pretended not to notice, but their efforts to protect me from him spoke volumes. You can pretend that everything is okay, but is it really?
A wonderful literary horror in the tradition of Ira Levin, Daphne du Maurier, and Shirley Jackson; Now You’re One of Us is a slow burn of a tragedy that left me feeling exhausted but so hungry to unravel the mystery from start to finish. An incendiary novel that pushes uncomfortable boundaries on the limits of family.
Warnings: gaslighting, verbal abuse, drug use, sex, graphic incest