What are the chances …?? So having just finished Hikikomori and the Rental Sister – an absolutely phenomenal read you should not miss! – I opened to the first story in Yoko Ogawa’s latest Stateside collection to find another parent mourning a young dead son. Talk about eerie and creepy, as if some darker power is directing my book choices (and more?). And then – and then (!) – not quite 2/3 of the way through Revenge, another freaky déjà-vu repeat: a lovers’ scene with a haircut on the balcony. I keep thinking: just what are the chances??
Some (most?) of you will be glad to know, that goosebumpy chill will stay with you all the way through to the final page and beyond (my fingers are getting cold just typing!).
Okay, so you’ve got 11 “dark tales” here. They’re interrelated, but in quite an ingenious way as to keep you focused (on alert? on edge?) from story to story. And yes, most definitely, these need to be read in order to get the full effect. No sloppy skipping allowed.
In the shudder-inducing opening story, “Afternoon at the Bakery,” a mother marks what would have been her late 6-year-old’s 18th birthday by buying strawberry shortcake; that “strawberry cake covered in a thick layer of whipped cream” reappears in the next story, “Fruit Juice,” about a schoolgirl who takes along a classmate to have a fancy lunch with her estranged, powerful, famous father. At story’s end, “Fruit Juice” highlights “enormous heaps of kiwis” … kiwis that just might have come from the fruit trees – mostly kiwis – that open the next story, “Old Mrs. J.”
From tale to tale, details carry over – beginning with something minor like pieces of fruit, to whole paragraphs transcribed from one story (“Old Mrs. J” again) into another in a very, very different context (the final tale, “Poison Plants,” about the relationship between a wealthy widow and an aspiring musician). The spooky particulars range from five-fingered carrots to murder, from a mis-placed heart to custom bags, from a dead hamster to a pet Bengal tiger, proven-to-be-used instruments of torture to a dead writer, all ending pretty much where it started – a curled up corpse in an abandoned refrigerator! And you’re thinking, ‘how did she dooooo that?’!!!
You must, of course, read the collection in full to make all the connections … your hairs will just continue to stand on end as you piece together the multi-layers. I just noticed my fingertips are turning purple-ish blue at the ends … proof indeed of a frightfully successful Revenge.
Tidbit: In case you can’t get enough of Yoko Ogawa, check out The Housekeeper and the Professor, which appears as one of my “Absolute Favorites” on BookDragon. Others also had high praise for Hotel Iris (shortlisted for the 2010 Man Asian Literary Prize, for example), but me, definitely not so much (reviewed for San Francisco Chronicle).
Published: 2013 (United States)