I had a reading copy of a book that just seemed to grab my attention although I did not really know what the novel was about. I knew that it was a mythical story but not much else. I also knew that the author was a mystery writer so that this novel was a bit of a break from her other works. Intrigued, I started “The goddess chronicle” by Natsuo Kirino.
Namima loved the sister that she grew up with even though she was never her sister’s equal. There was always something that set her sister apart from her even though the two girls did not understand it. Then one day it was revealed that Namima’s sister was destined to be the next oracle of the island kingdom while Namima would be the one who guides the dead to the realm of spirits in the afterlife. While Namima’s sister was to live in the light as the yin, Namima was sentenced to a life in the darkness of the yang.
Namima is in love with a man, Mahito, whose family is outcast due to the mother’s inability to bear a daughter. When their romance results in Namima getting pregnant, they leave the island in a small boat. When the baby is born, Mahito strangles Namima and throws her in the sea. She awakens to find herself in the afterlife for souls who have a great regret and cannot move on. There she gets acquainted with the god of the dead, Izanami, who kills 1,000 people every day as revenge for her husband’s betrayal of her. Through this relationship, and through her one chance at returning to the world of the living to discover the fate of her husband and daughter, Namima learns some hard lessons about love and life and the meaning of humanity.
“The goddess chronicle” is a very good, modern take on an ancient mythical theme. While this was a step away from the norm for Kirino, she handled the storyline with a deftness that made it compelling while still paying homage to the classical style of a tale of Eastern mythology. Having some exposure to Eastern mythology, this book was very well done in keeping with that style. There were some modern elements added into it but it remained true to its roots and held to the same moral tone as a traditional tale.
Some readers may be turned off by the Eastern mythology of the book and the style of the book which is more in the form of a fable, which is in holding with the myth on which it is based and the traditional style, than a modern novel. I was not, however, and I found this to be a very enjoyable book that even made me think. Yes, this book will make you think. There is a feel of the oral tradition of storytelling in this book that makes it seem like a story handed down from the older generation rather than a novel. One can almost imagine sitting with their grandmother and listening to this story and then passing it along to children of the next generation when the time comes. It is a feminist work in that it stars strong women in the lead roles and explores the roles of gender, but it is much more than that as well. It is a story of love and betrayal and then love once again. It is the story of a human becoming godlike and a god becoming human. Even more, it is the story of revenge and the regret that will follow that revenge. It is just a very good book that should be read and enjoyed by everyone, and then maybe stored on a shelf to give to your children as they reach adulthood so they can enjoy it as well.
I would like to give a special thanks to Canongate and NetGalley for this advanced reading copy. “The goddess chronicle” is now available.