Wednesday, October 12, 2016

The Kappa Child

Hiromi Goto
Completed 9/24/2016 Reviewed 9/25/2016
4 stars

I’ve never read any of the “Little House on the Prairie” books but I understand the general gist from having seen a few episodes of the TV series back in my youth.  They represent a child’s view growing up in prairie homesteading days written for children.  The main, unnamed character of “The Kappa Child” is a bit obsessed with the book.  So when her Canadian family of Japanese descent moves from the lush metropolitan Vancouver, BC to the Canadian prairie, of course she’s going to compare and refer a lot to her favorite book.  But the worlds couldn’t be any more different, with her father’s dream of growing rice rather than something that would actually flourish.  And her father is abusive to the children and the mother. 

The book takes place in the present of the adult protagonist with flashbacks to her childhood moving to the farm.  In the present, she encounters a Kappa, a green water sprite, part frog, part turtle, part human.  But rather than real traditional fantasy, the encounter has more of a magical realism quality.  The encounter, which involves sumo wrestling as Kappas are prone to engage in, leaves the protagonist supernaturally pregnant.  So she must deal with her unbelievable, undetectable pregnancy, the pain of her childhood past, and her not-so-great present relationships. 

I realize the summary of the book is somewhat confusing, but the book reflects that.  The narrator, our protagonist, is an unreliable narrator, often not realizing the reality of what’s going on around her.  She has incredibly low self-esteem, and not so great relationships with her sisters and friends.  So the view we get of her life is skewed toward the negative.  But that’s not to say that the book is a confusing downer.  It is in fact a pretty good read where the jumps between the past and present are actually very easy to follow. 

What’s most confusing is the Kappa aspect.  At the end of the book, the author fully explains what a Kappa is from Japanese mythology.  It left me wondering about the significance of the main character being pregnant with a Kappa child.  Is that what I was supposed to be getting out of it?  Or perhaps, she  herself is the Kappa child. 

Even though I couldn’t quite figure this out, I really enjoyed the book.  The narrator has a very interesting perspective on her life.  It makes the book very readable.  I give the book four out of five stars.  

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