This collection of stories is frighteningly brilliant.  Each is gently tied to the next by a tiny thread.  This detailed stitching, when tugged, wrinkles and shapes the fabric around it.

I truly hesitate to explain much about the stories themselves.  The reader should discover them for himself.  I can say that Ogawa makes the completely ordinary and mundane absolutely unnerving.  Her tales remind me of the more offbeat writings of Roald Dahl.  (If you haven’t read The Incredible Story of Henry Sugar and Six More or  The Umbrella Man, go and grab them now).  Like Dahl, she has the ability to make reality surreal and the surreal seem perfectly real.

Author Yoko Ogawa
Author Yoko Ogawa

Take, for example, this first-person narrative in a hospital:

The walls are scuffed up, and the fluorescent light flickers creepily.  The floor of the hall slopes down from the elevator, so the laundry cart rolls forward on its own, as though pulled by an invisible hand.  Like it’s going to race down the hall and crash through the door of the morgue.  That’s creepy , too.

To be honest, the morgue doesn’t scare me much.  I don’t really understand why the other girls are so afraid of it.  They see people dying all over the hospital, while they type their reports or eat cream puffs in the lounge.  The job is even kind of nice, especially when she’s next to me.  She’s as beautiful underground as she is in the office, her face all white and pale.   ~Pg. 52

The book is translated by Stephen Snyder, who preserves the sparseness of the prose and allows Ogawa’s dark writing to fall like a ton of bricks in the reader’s lap.

This dark, labyrinthian collection was arresting and gorgeous.  As unnerving as the stories are, I could not stop devouring them.  I’m so pleased Picador has brought them to the US.

Many thanks to Picador USA for the review copy.

Trade Paperback
ISBN: 9780312674465
ISBN10: 0312674465
Rough Front/Deckel Edge
5 1/2 x 8 1/4 inches, 176 pages