Murderers and mourners, mothers and children, lovers and innocent bystanders—their fates converge in a darkly beautiful web that they are each powerless to escape. Macabre, fiendishly clever, and with a touch of the supernatural, Yōko Ogawa’s Revenge creates a haunting tapestry of death—and the afterlife of the living.
- Title: Revenge
- Author: Yōko Ogawa
- Translator: Stephen Snyder
- Cover Artist: Steven Seighman, design
- Publisher: Picador
- ISBN: 0312674465
- Publication Date: January 29, 2013
The eleven interconnected short stories of Revenge keep you off balance, their increasingly disturbing revelations forcing you to readjust and try to maintain a sense of equilibrium in a world that feels more and more off-kilter. A mistress commits a crime of passion. A widow finds curiously-shaped produce in her garden. A craftsman becomes obsessed with a client. The bizarre connections between the characters often unfold gradually, letting the horror slowly seep into your system. But there are some shocks as well, quick stabs that jolt you out of any sense of safety or normality.
Yōko Ogawa continually shifts the reader’s bearings until they are totally unmoored. A character who seems innocuous in one story is revealed to be far more disturbing or dangerous in a subsequent story, forcing the reader to reevaluate their view of every person they encounter. Even the physical details you could use to ground yourself are troubling and unnatural—most of the stories include a bizarrely morbid clock tower and a creepy abandoned post office that tie the tales together geographically but create an overall sense of unease. There are several metafictional moments that make you question who Ogawa really is, or who you really are; she implicates the reader in the text, making you wonder if perhaps you’re living out the stories as you read them.
There is a pervading sense of sinister unreality in these tales of people going about their regular lives. The intertwining narrative repeatedly circles back, using events like a train delay or the discovery of a murder as touchstones that should clarify the timeline but paradoxically make you feel detached from time as the macabre connections swirl around you. Revenge is an eerily disorienting work that is a pleasure to get lost in, as it methodically peels back the layers of the world to reveal the sinister lives we all lead and the death that waits for us all.
I give this book 4.5 out of 5 coffins.