Publisher: Corsair Books
Translated by: Asa Yoneda
Cover Art: Nico Taylor and Isabel Reitemeyer
Content Warnings: Incest; violence; mistreatment of animals
Motoya’s eccentric short story collection steeped in the ever so slightly out of the ordinary is unique and provides subtle commentaries on society and societal concepts such as marriage. What initially drew me to this collection was the mundane sounding description. I thought the book couldn’t possibly be as plain as it sounded on the blurb. I was proven correct as it was substantial, without being overly heavy and there is an air of playfulness running throughout that makes it a quick, enjoyable read.
The first story sets up a few themes that create a current through the book as a whole, in particular looking at marriage and social norms. A woman has a desire to become a bodybuilder, and seeing as her husband no longer seems to pay attention to her, takes the chance to do so. We see her being judged and in some cases, ostracised until she becomes confused about her own identity. This was by no means the strongest story in the collection, but it certainly provoked my curiosity and encouraged me to continue with intrigue.
The longest story in the collection, and one of the stand out ones, is An Exotic Marriage. This one explores the merging of a couple and how you allow the person you love to cross boundaries you wouldn’t necessarily allow anyone else to cross. It discusses how much we allow our spouses to get away with, and how we feel a pressure to change and make detrimental compromises for them sometimes. Using the cat as a symbol of this was extremely clever, as many of us are animal lovers and would not dream of getting rid of such a beloved part of our lives, even if our partners and/or the society around us demanded it.
My personal favourite in the collection is The Women, which is a clever commentary on the treatment of women. The symbolism strikes a good balance between getting the message across and retaining the mysterious air seen in the previous and subsequent stories. Motoya is bold with her messages and demands the reader pays attention with the whimsical way she writes.
There were a few weaker stories throughout the collection, which were definitely jarring. For example, I could not understand Paprika Jiro and felt it was a little too outlandish for my tastes. Furthermore, the description of incest in How to Burden the Girl was slightly too much for me, although it definitely pushes boundaries and asks questions, which is a theme for this particular collection.
If you are well versed in short story collections and/or Japanese literature, I would recommend this one, as it definitely brings something unique to the table. On the other hand, if you are just starting to venture into either of those categories, I would not suggest this a beginner, as it is quite abstract and confusing in places.
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