Author: Kanae Minato
Publisher: Mulholland Books
Publication Date: April 11th 2017
Page count: 240
Genre: Suspense, Fiction, Thriller
The tense, chilling story of four women haunted by a childhood trauma.
When they were children, Sae, Maki, Akiko and Yuko were tricked into separating from their friend Emili by a mysterious stranger. Then the unthinkable occurs: Emili is found murdered hours later.
Sae, Maki, Akiko and Yuko weren’t able to accurately describe the stranger’s appearance to the police after the Emili’s body was discovered. Asako, Emili’s mother, curses the surviving girls, vowing that they will pay for her daughter’s murder.
Like Confessions, Kanae Minato’s award-winning, internationally bestselling debut novel, PENANCE is a dark and voice-driven tale of revenge and psychological trauma that will leave listeners breathless. – Goodreads
Warning: This book contains elements of sexual abuse and emotional/domestic abuse.
This is an absolute first for me, I have never, ever read a Japanese novel, I read the translated version because unfortunately, I don’t know Japanese! But I still got the cultural experience from this book and I really enjoyed reading something different.
The novel is based on a group of friends that live in a small town, in the group of friends is the new girl, Emily. On a very hot day in their little town the girls decide to go play a game on their school grounds, where they are approached by a strange man, the man builds the girls trust and promises them ice cream if he could have a helping hand from the new girl, the girls agree, eager for something to help them cool down. When neither Emily or the man returns the girls decided to go on a search for their friend. When they find her it’s already too late, Emily has been murdered.
Years later and the murderer has still not been found and Emily’s mother is about to move away, but before she leaves she wants to ask the girls one last time if they know anything more about the strange man they saw that night of the murder. When they come back with the same information they’ve told many of people over the years Emily’s mother is not satisfied and gives the girls a choice, they must find the murderer or she will expect a penance from each one of them.
The book is then written in the future where the girls are now living their own lives, independently as grown women and we find out how they are handling the events of that night that happened many of years ago.
At first, I found this book was really fast paced, it was beautifully written and I connected well with the characters. It took me out of my comfort zone and I was really happy about it. Minato’s writing was exceptional and I can’t wait to read more from her, the only thing I would say is that because only a small amount of the book at the start is actually about the crime itself it did start to drag a little, I would love to read an entire novel by Kanae that is crime centered as I think she would hit the nail on the head with it.
I’m so happy I got to read this book but it’s not one I’ll read again, although I am eager to read more from Kanae Minato so I hope that more of her books appear in translation or I’ll just have to learn how to read Japanese, which is something I’ve actually always wanted to learn so maybe it’s a sign to finally pursue it!
Thank you so much, NetGalley & Mulholland Books for an ARC copy in exchange for an honest review.