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“In this compelling hybrid memoir and true-crime account, Mitchell recounts how the cold-case murder of his friend Jane Britton, a fellow graduate student in the Harvard anthropology department, was solved after 49 years. Shibai, a Japanese word for a stage play, also means “gaslighting” or “bullshit” in the slang of Mitchell’s native Hawai’i. As an anthropologist among the Nagovisi people of Bougainville, Mitchell learned early that truth is always filtered through the stories we tell ourselves and the roles in which our culture casts us. When Becky Cooper, a journalist for The New Yorker, contacts him for a book she is writing about Jane’s case, he discovers, in retelling the story to a stranger, that his long-held assumptions about the murder don’t hold up. With him, the reader relives the Kafka-esque terror of being suspected by the police, the frustration when the investigation is stonewalled or misled by people he once loved, and the sorrow and relief of finally filling in the gaps about Jane’s last moments. The resulting saga is a profound and subtle meditation on memory, aging, and our responsibility to the dead. Like a shadow that provides contrast in a photograph, Jane’s unlived life stands as a counterpart to Mitchell’s honest and self-aware journey through the milestones of his 70-plus years, from the triumphs and disappointments of his academic career to his deep relationship with the Hawaiian landscape and people.”

 

—Jendi Reiter, author of Two Natures and other books.