cover image Revenge: Eleven Dark Tales

Revenge: Eleven Dark Tales

Yoko Ogawa, trans. from the Japanese by Stephen Snyder. Picador, $14 trade paper (176p) ISBN 978-0-312-67446-5

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.)