Friday, December 23, 2005

The Kappa Child by Hiromi Goto

I just read the last pages of The Kappa Child. The book is beautiful, heartwarming and enlightening. I loved it.
The book won the James Tiptree Jr. Award in 2001. That's what got me to buy the novel, thinking it would be a fantasy novel. The kappa and the UFO abductions in the story are all used more metaphorically. They are possibly psychological in origin, but all the fantastic happenings have physical manifestations. The book is really more literary fiction, and has its best moments describing the interactions between people.
The book is about a woman trying to come to terms with her family history and her present life. The writing is beautiful, the characters seem so real and the story is great. Find the book and read it. It's terrific.
The Tiptree judges had many good things to say about the novel. Here's one judge:

This captivating magic realist novel is, from start to finish, a pure delight to read. Although clearly fantastic it is written with a "mainstream" sensibility so that emphasis is placed on the protagonists, their growth and their inner worlds rather than on an action-driven plot with which genre readers are more familiar. This book pulls no emotional punches yet remains both a loving and a positive work.

Goto's warm, delicate and humorous touch had me, a straight and sometime conservative male, effortlessly identifying with the alienation felt by four Japanese-Canadian sisters, one of them queer, growing up within the confines of a strict, paternalistic family on the Canadian prairie. Quite a feat, that.

Add an immaculate conception, alien abductions and a kappa to the blend and you have an irresistible charmer of a book. PH

Hiromi Goto has a Web site with a movie clip and some other information. Here's a very short excerpt from the novel.
Here's some reviews: Strange Horizons; Canadian Literature; Herizons; and Emerald City. There's an interview with Goto at BookSense.
UPDATE: The word heartwarming above worries me. I think it gives the wrong impression. The book is very dark in places, much of it is about a family with an abusive father. In fact, some of the most powerful writing in the novel is the way Goto makes you feel the "explosive silences" of the household. The father's punishments were random and out of proportion. This is not simply a feel-good book, nor is it a Lifetime Channel movie. It's tough and it's intelligent. The heartwarming part comes at the end, when you've followed the main character through all her problems and seen her emerge from it.

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