Publication Date: Available Now from Mulholland
When they were children, Sae, Maki, Akiko and Yuko were tricked into separating from their friend Emily by a mysterious stranger. Then the unthinkable occurs: Emily is found murdered hours later.
Sae, Maki, Akiko and Yuko weren’t able to accurately describe the stranger’s appearance to the police after the Emili’s body was discovered. Asako, Emily’s mother, curses the surviving girls, vowing that they will pay for her daughter’s murder.
I read Confessions from this author and loved it, a one sitting read and Penance was another one sitting read. It was strange and dark, occasionally heart breaking and beautifully done. Translated from the Japanese by Philip Gabriel I was immediately hooked in to this tale of a group of children caught up in the horrific murder of one of their friends, a sinister threat from the girls mother and how that affected them growing up..
Penance is less a murder mystery and more a character drama – the murder, and the mothers emotionally charged “threat” setting off a chain of life events for the 4 girls and indeed for the mother herself. Each girl tells her tale, about that day and about their lives after, all of them in one way or another end up paying that “Penance” that was demanded of them at a young and impressionable age. Kenae Minato really delves into personality here, taking us on a twisted, atmospheric journey through the lives of these characters, whose realities differ so much but all are tied into a seemingly unbreakable bond to that one event.
The cultural aspects are equally involving, as I read I got a real sense of both the differences and the similarities between life in Japan and life here – there are different expectations, different society rules and hierarchy, but people are people everywhere. Grief, love, trauma, those things have no borders and I was struck by how beautifully the author managed to portray the feelings, the passion, the core heart of everyone we meet within the pages.
Utterly riveting, everything in Penance hovers underneath the surface, the decisions made, the actions taken, all informed by the past at differing levels. The plotting is taut and extraordinarily clever, its not until you come to the end of Penance and look back at it that you understand fully the complete tragedy. Because Penance is a tragedy, almost Shakespearean in nature, I devoured every word of it with a shivery intensity.
Absolutely Highly Recommended.