Penance by Kanae Minato, translated by Philip Gabriel
Review by Lauren
source: copy from Netgalley; all opinions are my own
Official Summary (add on Goodreads): When they were children, Sae, Maki, Akiko and Yuko were tricked into separating from their friend Emily by a mysterious stranger. Then the unthinkable occurs: Emily 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 Emily’s body was discovered. Asako, Emily’s mother, curses the surviving girls, vowing that they will pay for her daughter’s murder.
Review: Penance is a Japanese novel translated into English by Philip Gabriel. The author’s first novel, Confessions, is one that I’ve had on my wish list for a long time. Therefore, I was excited to get the chance to read Penance. I love books that are translated from another language or take place in a different country. Even with books like Penance, that deal with a murder mystery, readers are still able to learn about a culture or country different from their own.When a younger girl is murdered...the mom ends up blaming the three friends left behind.… Click To Tweet
While Penance would be a hard book to rate, I did enjoy it. It was a fairly quick read and included perspectives from all four girls. These girls were just children when their friend Emily is murdered. Despite this awful event, Emily’s mother ends up blaming the girls years later. They were playing with Emily when the man came up to them, yet none of the girls could tell the police what the man’s face looked like. The details they did remember were varied depending on which girl was talking. Emily’s mother, Asako, lets her grief and anger spill over onto these young girls and tells them they will either figure out who murdered Emily or serve a penance that she feels is worthy enough. It’s a damning proclamation and one that none of the girls forget.
The book goes from one perspective to another, and I liked how each one was told. One person -Sae- writes a letter, while another is having a conversation. All of these styles made the book a quick, easy read. It brings readers in and makes them feel like each girl’s tale of their lives post-murder is being told directly to them. There is a bit of suspension of disbelief with Penance. I don’t want to spoil anything, so I’ll just say that while it’s all realistic and could happen, it would be a really big coincidence if all the events in this book actually took place. Despite that, I did enjoy this book and I definitely want to read Confessions even more now!