A man gets the life-changing news of cancer. He is alone. His wife who is meant to meet him at the hospital never arrives. She is unable to confront him and his situation, unable to wrap her head around losing him, about being left behind, and so she runs away. She flees their little town of Komachi, a typhoon approaching, the mist gathering, the cloud sea sweeping in.
Alec Chester is South African, a teacher of English, thus sensei to many of the Komachi residents. His wife, Kanae, is the one who grew up here. He has tried his best to integrate into Komachi, following their customs and rules, all while knowing that he will never truly fit in.
Fog Island Mountains is a carefully crafted book, a delicate, gentle read, which might sound like an odd choice of description for a book that touches on something tragic amidst an incoming storm. But I guess it might have to do with the way the Japanese tend to hold back on showing their emotions and feelings, even about something like cancer. I love that the story runs over just a few days, that so very much can happen in a few days. Bad news, a storm, a missing wife.
Azami, a rather mysterious woman who cares for hurt wild animals and tells stories at the town library, narrates the story. And introduces its influence – the kitsune, or the fox with nine tails, a Japanese folktale in which the fox takes on human form, tricks a lonely young man to fall in love with him. And they have a child together. But one day the fox-woman turns back into a fox and runs away.
The mountains, the town and its residents are weaved into the story so that it feels like one whole, a tale into which the reader is absorbed fully and from which this reader emerged, expecting to find myself in the aftermath of the typhoon in Japan. Fog Island Mountains was unexpectedly absorbing, a short read that takes barely more than one or two readings but leaves the reader with food for thought (what if it were me?) and gorgeous imagery to remember.
Michelle Bailat-Jones is a writer and translator. Her novel Fog Island Mountains won the Christopher Doheny Award from the Center for Fiction in New York City. She translated Charles Ferdinand Ramuz s 1927 Swiss classic Beauty on Earth. She is the reviews editor at the web journal Necessary Fiction, and her fiction, poetry, translations, and criticism have appeared in a number of journals, including the Kenyon Review, Hayden’s Ferry Review, the Quarterly Conversation, PANK, Spolia Mag, Two Serious Ladies, and the Atticus Review. Michelle lives in Switzerland.
Tuesday, November 4th: The Discerning Reader
Thursday, November 6th: BookNAround
Tuesday, November 11th: No More Grumpy Bookseller
Thursday, November 13th: Bell, Book, & Candle
Monday, November 17th: Book Nerd
Thursday, November 20th: Too Fond
Tuesday, December 2nd: Bibliotica
Wednesday, December 3rd: Regular Rumination
Friday, December 5th: Patricia’s Wisdom
Monday, December 8th: Book Dilettante
Tuesday, December 9th: Olduvai Reads
Wednesday, December 10th: Svetlana’s Reads and Views