Winner of the Akutagawa Prize, The Hole is by turns reminiscent of Lewis Carroll, David Lynch, and My Neighbor Totoro, but is singularly unsettling
Asa’s husband is transferring jobs, and his new office is located near his family’s home in the countryside. During an exceptionally hot summer, the young married couple move in, and Asa does her best to quickly adjust to their new rural lives, to their remoteness, to the constant presence of her in-laws and the incessant buzz of cicadas. While her husband is consumed with his job, Asa is left to explore her surroundings on her own: she makes trips to the supermarket, halfheartedly looks for work, and tries to find interesting ways of killing time.
One day, while running an errand for her mother-in-law, she comes across a strange creature, follows it to the embankment of a river, and ends up falling into a hole—a hole that seems to have been made specifically for her. This is the first in a series of bizarre experiences that drive Asa deeper into the mysteries of this rural landscape filled with eccentric characters and unidentifiable creatures, leading her to question her role in this world, and eventually, her sanity.
Oyamada's eerie latest (after The Factory) follows a young woman as she acclimates to a new life in rural Japan. Asa quits her job so that she and her husband, Muneaki, can live closer to his work. In the countryside, she attempts to fill their hot, unoccupied summer days with housework, naps, and cooking, and Oyamada inflects the domestic setting with the tone of a thriller, from the ominous sound of a child's overheard cry to a missing envelope full of cash. Asa has unfulfilling, terse conversations with the distracted Muneaki and bewildering, paranoia-provoking interactions with Muneaki's family, who are Asa's closest neighbors and about whom she knows very little. The suspense cranks up when Asa repeatedly sees a strange black animal on the grounds that looks vaguely like a dog. After Asa falls into one of the holes the animal digs, she becomes determined to find out what's going on with the animal; her efforts lead only to more questions, which build to a neat, satisfying ending. Oyamada's atmospheric literary thriller puts a fresh, gripping spin on the bored housewife set-up.