Life Ceremony

A mirror is supposed to tell the truth, to reflect back to its viewer an accurate representation of the self. A funhouse mirror elongates and shrinks that reflection, allowing the viewer to laugh at the distorted version of self it offers, funny because it is a lie. With Life Ceremony (translated from the Japanese by Ginny Tapley Takemori), Sayaka Murata (Convenience Store WomanEarthlings) has created a series of funhouse mirrors, each story in the collection pushing readers to reconsider what is true, distorting the image so completely as to open the viewer to new and unexpected perspectives.

The dozen stories are uniformly strange but delivered in a straightforward cadence that gives lie to the strangeness. They are also wildly readable, each story turning societal norms on their head and leaving readers wondering if maybe it would make sense to honor the passing of a loved one by preparing and sharing a meal from their remains (as is the case in the title story), or reflecting on the ways people will alter and adapt their personalities to fit different situations, as is so deftly explored in the closing story, "Hatchling." Each story displays a fine-boned architecture, a careful curation of details and paring away of the extraneous. The result is remarkable, the lean force of Murata's imagination rippling through each piece.

This, then, is the magic Murata works in Life Ceremony, the impressive way she is able to destabilize a mirrored reflection of humanity, giving back a strange and wonderful truth. --Sara Beth West, freelance reviewer and librarian

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