At the Edge of the Woods
Masatsugu Ono, trans. from Japanese by Juliet Winters Carpenter. Two Lines, $16.
This haunting, memorable tale from Ono (Echo on the Bay) follows a father and son living at the edge of a whispering forest. In the present day, the father raises his son in an unnamed country where he’d moved with his wife. After she returns to their home country to await the birth of their second child, the father contends with strange phenomena, as though living in “a peculiar abyss of time and space.” The forest beyond their house seems to speak, letters never arrive, and the letter carrier regularly changes size and shape and blames the missing mail on imps. After the narrator’s son wishes for a grandmother, the pair is visited by a half-naked old woman tormented by memories of her husband and the son they conceived during a war. With allusions to France, a nearby farmer recounts the death of his older brother, a “Resistance” member betrayed by neighbors. And both the narrator and his wife encounter long caravans of migrants, people who “no longer had a home and were forced to wander, lost, forever.” Eschewing chronology and plot, Ono’s immersive narrative accrues insights about the nature of violence and mercy. It’s an accomplished work by a masterful writer. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 01/20/2022