BookDragon Books for the Multi-Culti Reader

Revenge: Eleven Dark Tales by Yoko Ogawa, translated by Stephen Snyder

RevengeWhat 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).

Readers: Adult

Published: 2013 (United States)


  • Jim McCallum

    I LOVED this book – of course, I was in a grim and dark mood when I read if from cover to cover without putting it down .. Thanks for the other references because I will make Barnes and Nobel happy tonight if they have them in stock –

    • Politics & Prose is indie, though! And easy subway ride, no? And JUST the sort of place that would have ALL of Ogawa’s books in stock.

      You can tell me what you think of Hotel Iris. Oh, and although it’s not on BD, Ogawa’s other collection, The Diving Pool, is much recommended, too!

      The Housekeeper and the Professor remains the absolute favorite.

  • I read this compulsively, I remain in awe of how she succeeds in enticing the reader with the faintest of threads to keep reading through the entire collection. Brilliant. I also can’t believe how long it has taken to be translated into English, well, maybe I can, aren’t we SO behind in terms of translated fiction. The number of her titles already available in French is phenomenal in comparison.

    • I just posted an article on BD’s FB page about Haruki Murakami’s next book which will debut in Japan in April. No leaks to be found anywhere as to what it’s about. The Japanese publisher is being VERY VERY hush hush.

      How long before we get THAT Stateside? In another life, when my brain functioned better, I could read Murakami (and others) in the original … I’ve forgotten so many of the kanji, I’m hopeless now, so must rely on the translators. The agonizing patience.

      That said, I DID download a little app for the phone over the weekend that I just started to use in hopes of reclaiming some of that lost knowledge, doggone it! Maybe in a couple of years, I’ll be able to read again. Although by then, more translations will be available!

      Did you read her Housekeeper and the Professor. Still definitely my favorite of her titles …

      • Yes, I loved The Housekeeper and the Professor, she certainly has quite a range, I’m so happy they are finally publishing more of her work in English.

        I understand your frustration with reading in two languages, I love reading so much and sometimes to read in French which is a challenge, just feels too much like hard work.

        • I suppose would be better to upside down my frustration and be oh so grateful that we have the (rusty) ability to go beyond English! Comes in handy for sure, sometimes in the most unexpected ways! I need an app to remind me to practice gratitude more! Although I wouldn’t be surprised if such a beast exists, actually!

          • Oh yes, the App App – the Appreciation app. Just kidding, I just made that up, sounds good though doesn’t it. I would love a daily reminder to remind me to find 5 things to appreciate before I start my day. 🙂

            I appreciate my connection with you.
            I appreciate Yoko Ogawa sharing her talent.
            I appreciate people who can translate from Japanese to English.
            I appreciate all translators in all languages.
            I appreciate that I have the gift of being able to read.


            • PERFECTLY said! DITTO!!!!

              And love the “App App”! Surely we could get someone to build that for us? Someone we could shower with appreciation? And books! We could share such great books with said person!

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