cover image Numamushi: A Fairytale

Numamushi: A Fairytale

Mina Ikemoto Ghosh. Lanternfish, $16 trade paper (112p) ISBN 978-1-941360-77-4

With this mesmerizing novella, first-time author Ghosh eloquently explores themes of trauma, self-sacrifice, and redemption. When a “great white snake” finds a baby floating in a river “on robes made buoyant with flaming grease,” it adopts the boy, naming him Numamushi after the marsh and teaching him to hunt frogs and shed his burned skin. They live in happy isolation until a reclusive former army prison chaplain, Mizukiyo, moves into an abandoned house on the river’s edge. Mizukiyo befriends Numamushi and teaches him calligraphy. But when Mizukiyo’s friend and lover arrives, Numamushi learns of Mizukiyo’s dark past and the reasons for his intense self-loathing: after his mother, a murderer, died in childbirth, Mizukiyo was raised in a temple and then drafted to serve in Burma, where he regularly poisoned prisoners of war “to kill their minds, and keep them dumb and calm right up to the noose.” Ghosh’s handling of both war and the human-animal dialectic is visceral as the story—accompanied by the author’s fabulously gruesome pen and ink illustration—works toward its horrific, venom-splattered climax. Ghosh’s real genius is her elegant rendering of complex emotions; with spare but carefully placed strokes, she expresses love, loss, and loneliness. Fans of Kenji Miyazawa’s classic Night on the Galactic Railroad will adore this rare gem. (Oct.)