Friday, April 23, 2021

2021 - 65 - Earthlings; Sayaka Murata

 

TITLE/AUTHOREarthlings; Sayaka Murata

PUBLISHER: Blackstone Audio

YEAR PUBLISHED: 2020

GENRE: Fiction / Literary / Coming of Age / Dystopian

FORMAT:  audio LENGTH: 7 hours 6 minutes

SOURCE:  library download

SETTING(s):  Japan


ONE SENTENCE SUMMARY:  Don't let the cute cover lead you to believe this is a light read; it's an unsettling story that you won't easily forget.

BRIEF REVIEW:   Earlier this year I read The Convenience Store Woman and absolutely loved it so I wanted to try the author's latest novel as well. This one was very good but a much darker story, however,  Sayaka Murata has become another favorite on my list of must-read authors.

Since the age of nine, Natsuki has always felt like a bit of an alien when it came to human interactions.  Her mother physically and emotionally abusive, her father devoid of emotion and both parents favored her sister.  She isn't even able to get her mother to take her seriously when she is sexually assaulted by a teacher.  Yet, Natsuki gets by pretending her plush, hedgehog toy,  Piyyut, has bestowed its magical powers to protect her.  One summer while the family has gathered for her grandfather's funeral at their mountain retreat, she learns that her similar age, male cousin Yuu also feels that same societal alienation and believes he has ascended from the planet Popinpobopia. The two bond over their similarities and the duo pledge to marry when older.

Fast forward 20 years and Natsuki is married to Totomoya and in a loveless marriage.  The two met on a website for "people trying to evade society's gaze."  It turns out Totomoya is disgusted by the female body because of abuse he suffered at the hands of his mother.  Pressured by the "Baby Factory" to procreate and the feeling that people are trying to brainwash them, Natsuki and Totomoya plan a getaway to that mountain retreat where Natsuki reconnects with Yuu hoping that he has not forgotten their childhood promise.  What occurs in the rather brief finale is likely to horrify the reader or, at the very least, have them jolt up in shock and never forget how this unsettling story ends.

Beautifully translated from the Japanese by Ginny Tapley Takemoti, the author has written another stunning piece about the pressures and consequences of being expected to conform to societies expectations.

RATING:  4.5/5 stars

MEMORABLE QUOTES:  

"The person who had given birth to me said I was a dead loss, so I decided it must really be true."

"Society was a system for falling in love.  People who couldn't fall in love had to fake it.  What came first: the system or love?"

"I was a tool for the town's good, in two senses.  Firstly, I  had to study hard to become a work tool. Secondly, I had to be a good girl, so I could become a reproductive organ for the town."

22 comments:

  1. That does sound a wee bit strange but good though!

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  2. I will definitely look for this book. Thank you for the review, Diane.

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    1. Deb, this author and the perfect translation has made this author a favorite.

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  3. Different and shocking is totally my thing. I did wonder about the cute cover so I am glad you cleared that up for me. I just adore Japanese fiction. I don't know if it's the translation or what but it seems to be deeper on so many levels.

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    1. Not sure if you have read The Convenience Store Woman? it's a super short but wonderful story. This one is slightly longer but, still pretty short but, a real shocker.

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  4. I really want to give this author a try, but I think I'm going to start with The Convenience Store Woman. I think I'd like that book a little more than this one.

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    1. Oh good, I do hope you read it soon. If you like audios both are excellent.

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  5. Probably not my thing but I was fascinated to read about it in your review.

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    1. No not for every one and had it not been written by an author I enjoyed previously I might have missed it.

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  6. This sounds good, but intense and dark. I hadn't heard of it before so thank you for letting us know about it.

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    1. Helen, I was surprised by the turn this book had taken, didn't expect it going in.

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  7. That ending has me curious I have to admit. And how timely- conforming to society's expectations seems like a very topical moment! So much turmoil about roles in society now.

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  8. I still haven't read The Convenience Store Woman, but I'll add this one to my list. I'm currently in one of those freaky chasms of anxiety and don't think Earthlings is a good choice right now. I'll save it for better days. :)

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  9. What a fascinating review. I have not read this writer's work, but this book sounds like an absolute must-read.

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    1. Dorothy, Hope you will try this author. If not into something too dark, start with Convenience Store Woman.

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  10. Sounds a bit disturbing. Perhaps I'll start with the Convenience Store Woman first.

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    1. Yes, start with Convenience Store Woman - its so short and wonderful.

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  11. Thanks for reminding me about this one. I enjoyed her Convenience Store Woman novel so much that I have to give this one a try. From the sound of it, it has a much grimmer tone about it than the other one. I was pleasantly surprised to be able to download the audiobook version from my library just a minute ago, so I'm off and running...

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    1. Sam, I was able to get the audio quickly as well and was thrilled. I'll be so curious to read your thoughts! Much darker indeed.

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