Sinister forces collide---and unite a host of desperate characters---in this eerie cycle of interwoven tales from Yoko Ogawa, the critically acclaimed author of "The Housekeeper and the Professor." An aspiring writer moves into a new apartment and discovers that her landlady has murdered her husband. Read more...
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Sinister forces collide---and unite a host of desperate characters---in this eerie cycle of interwoven tales from Yoko Ogawa, the critically acclaimed author of "The Housekeeper and the Professor." An aspiring writer moves into a new apartment and discovers that her landlady has murdered her husband. Elsewhere, an accomplished surgeon is approached by a cabaret singer, whose beautiful appearance belies the grotesque condition of her heart. And while the surgeon's jealous lover vows to kill him, a violent envy also stirs in the soul of a lonely craftsman. Desire meets with impulse and erupts, attracting the attention of the surgeon's neighbor---who is drawn to a decaying residence that is now home to instruments of human torture. Murderers and mourners, mothers and children, lovers and innocent bystanders---their fates converge in an ominous and darkly beautiful web.
Yoko Ogawa's "Revenge" is a master class in the macabre that will haunt you to the last page.
An NPR Best Book of 2013
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2012-11-12
- Reviewer: Staff
Weaving together the morbid tales of 11 unnamed narrators, prolific Japanese author Ogawa (Hotel Iris), a Shirley Jackson Award winner, presents an intense rumination on the precariousness of interconnected lives. A jigsaw pleasure comes from anecdotes and details slipping into place between most stories, deepening characters and thematic resonance. In “Old Mrs. J,” a struggling novelist recalls the antics of her next-door neighbor, who discovers “a carrot in the shape of a hand” in her garden. Later, the handless body of her ex-husband also turns up in the soil. “Sewing for the Heart” is an intricate character study examining the life of a bag maker commissioned by a woman whose vulnerable heart rests outside her chest: “It could fit in the palm of my hand. A pale pink membrane of delicate muscle tissue surrounded it. What extraordinary, breathtaking beauty!” The final story, “Poison Plants” ties up a lot of loose ends and includes a brief authorial transparency that helps seal the spartan collection. The thrills are sometimes cheap and the connections between stories membrane thin, but Ogawa makes it count with her precision and dedication to bringing the vision full-circle. Agent: Anna Stein, Aitken Alexander Associates. (Jan.)
Linked tales of heartbreaking beauty
The subtitle of Revenge, Yoko Ogawa’s slender collection of stories, is “Eleven Dark Tales.” But while dark in subject matter, these tales are nearly delicate, and their overwhelming emotion isn’t revenge but an excruciating sadness. Filled with lonely people who are incapable of human contact, or who can only make human contact in macabre and unsatisfactory ways, they’re also interlinked, with bits of one story illuminating parts of another. Numbers and motifs—like strawberry shortcake or the creepy figures that emerge from a public clock—recur. “Fruit Juice” features an abandoned post office full of perfectly edible kiwi fruit. In “Old Mrs. J.” we find out how the kiwis got there in the first place. In one story a character is young and lonely, while in another story the character is old and just as lonely—or dead.
Speaking of deaths, Ogawa’s writing is full of such grace and sorrow that even the most grisly death has a weird beauty. She also adds touches of magical realism that are so skillful and subtle that the reader wonders if the things she describes can really happen. Can the young woman in “Sewing for the Heart” actually live with her heart beating outside of her chest? Why does absolutely everything handled by the lonely bachelor uncle in “The Man Who Sold Braces” and “Welcome to the Museum of Torture” fall to pieces?
As for the title: Yes, some people do get revenge, large or small, on people who displease them. But in Ogawa’s heartbreaking stories, life itself seems to have the last laugh.