Earthlings by Sayaka Murata
Author: Sayaka Murata, Translator: Ginny Tapley Takemori
Publisher: Granta Publications
Published Date: October 1st 2010
Length: 256 pages
Genre: Fiction, Fantasy, Adult, Horror, Japanese literature, Translated works, Contemporary, etc.
Natsuki isn’t like the other girls. She has a wand and a transformation mirror. She might be a witch, or an alien from another planet. Together with her cousin Yuu, Natsuki spends her summers in the wild mountains of Nagano, dreaming of other worlds. When a terrible sequence of events threatens to part the two children forever, they make a promise: survive, no matter what.
Now Natsuki is grown. She lives a quiet life with her asexual husband, surviving as best she can by pretending to be normal. But the demands of Natsuki’s family are increasing, her friends wonder why she’s still not pregnant, and dark shadows from Natsuki’s childhood are pursuing her. Fleeing the suburbs for the mountains of her childhood, Natsuki prepares herself with a reunion with Yuu. Will he still remember their promise? And will he help her keep it?
I have heard so many great things about Convenience Store Woman that I knew I had to grab the opportunity when it offered on NetGalley. I still haven’t read that book but after this one, I am very intrigued about that one too! This book, with its cute cover, fools the reader into walking a road that is so far away from what the reader might expect to be on.
Natsuki, the lead character, leads a tough life. She’s not shown kindness by her parents or siblings and she’s been sexually abused by her teacher and it is becoming harder to keep a lid on everything that’s happening in her life and in order to deal with it, she just tries to lose herself in her imaginations. Then there’s her cousin Yu, he’s not what people call normal and even his mother agrees with that assessment. Yu, himself, doesn’t feel like he actually belongs with all the other humans. They sort of fall in love with the idea of them being together and then they are torn apart.
Then, we are thrown to the future, where Natsuki is in her 30s who’s married to a man who agrees with her about her life philosophies. They don’t want to be contained within the societal norms, they do not want to procreate or be the image of what’s expected of them by the society. Natsuki feels like her dream of living her life is still a dream and she’s surviving her life just as she was doing back in her childhood. They travel to the old family home where she first fell in love with Yu and found a connection for the first time.
It’s only after they decide to make their own bubble in which to live that we get to see the dynamics and the shocking decisions they make as they along this journey. Natsuki and her husband don’t really want to have sex in general, Yu has his own journey and all these things cumulate into something horrifying and frankly, quite brilliant. Now that I have sat down to write review, I can see once more why this book deserves all the praise and more. It’s simply unsettling and upsetting and all the things that come with a novel that’s a mixture of gore and psychological deviations of the mind after its been under such horrifying stress. I would definitely recommend it to people who can stomach all the things that are involved in this novel.
Content warnings: Misogyny, incest, murder, cannibalism (don’t ask), etc. I can’t think of more at the moment but for more warnings, go to Goodreads reviews without spoilers, I guess.