Sunday, September 14, 2014

The Girl from the Well

Welcome to A More Diverse Universe!  I'll begin the two-week event with a book I read courtesy of a NetGalley ARC.

I got this book, The Girl from the Well, by Lin Chupeco, from Netgalley, mostly because my best friend is super into Japanese horror movies.  Horror novels are a completely different beast from movies--tension is built differently, images have to be used differently--and I've never quite gotten the hang of them.  I think I'm just a jaded cynic.

I suppose it's not the most innovative thing, to tell the story from the point of view of the ghost.  But what I would usually expect from a book like that is a ghost who is really your average person, only, you know, dead.  Incorporeal.  Living in the afterlife.  This is something different, though, about this ghost--straight out of a real legend, straight out of the well, straight out of The Ring.

The narrator is Okiku, the ghost of a girl who was murdered 300 years ago in Japan.  She is based on real Japanese legends, and in this story, as in those, she is a vengeful spirit who horribly murders those who remind her of her killer.  In this case, it is people who harm children; she follows those people, drifts into their lives, and enacts horrific retribution--they are found, nowhere near water, looking days-drowned.  In this way, she also frees the spirits of the children who are bound to them.

Then she meets a boy, Tark, whose tattoos surge with power and whose personality bristles.  He carries a shadow--another ghost, but he doesn't understand it.  Tark and his cousin Callie find the world more complicated and creepy than they'd thought.

Okiku is far and away the best part of the book--although she narrates the whole thing, there are parts that are clearly told with her "voice" and point of view, and there are parts where she narrates Tark and Callie's lives, where her voice has more distance.  Those parts are fine, but the touch of her foreignness, her otherness, is really excellent.

Callie is in many ways the protagonist of the novel--she's the one who figures out that something unnatural is going on and investigates.  Her love for her cousin and her general good-personness drive the plot and hold the bits of the narrative--Okiku's distance and rage, Tark's father's confusion, and the possibility of resolving his haunting--together.

I think the biggest weakness here is the dialogue, which is pretty stilted; all the characters sound the same.  The best part is our antihero, our murdering, horrifying, rising-from-the-bathtub-in-her-unholy-glory ghost.  It's the world through a completely different set of eyes, and it's what sets this apart from another creepy story.  Thumbs up, I think.  Very much up.


Anonymous said...

This sounds awesome!! I am annoyed that it is an ARC. :P I like ghost stories, and Japanese ghosts are the scariest... I'm looking forward to find this when it comes out. Thanks for the review!

Liviania said...

I really loved this one. Okiku, in all her murderous counting glory, was fantastic.

Aarti said...

This sounds so interesting! I am not really into horror stories, but what a fantastic review!

Do you mind linking it to the review post? :-)

Sarah Laurence said...

Sounds interesting! I would have never guessed from the cover that it was about Japan. My husband teaches Japanese Politics so I'll tell him about it.

bibliophiliac said...

Sounds interesting! I love the cover, and the idea of a narrator based on a legendary ghost is intriguing....