Review | The Kappa Child by Hiromi Goto

Don’t you just hat it when you get impregnated by mythical creatures?

And no, I’m not talking about Percy Jackson and the Olympians.

kappa child

Summary

In a house that obviously isn’t like Little House on a Prairie, a Japanese-Canadian family settles in Alberta, their patriarch hell-bent on growing rice on their land. his four daughters and their mother cater to his wishes, and they work the land.

Many years later, the protagonist/narrator (who is never named) struggles with an unexpected pregnancy. One that her family and friends are unlikely to believe since she (1) doesn’t show any signs of pregnancy despite being pregnant for 6 months, and (2) hasn’t technically had sex.

But who would believe it was all because of a Kappa?

Review

Okay, for the first fifty pages or so, I thought this book was going to be a lot of hipster metaphorical bullsh*t. I was really disinclined to continue reading, but a funny thing called required reading lists kept me going.

And I’m glad it did, because I actually kind of like this book.

If you’re not into contemporary fantasy, I’d back away from this book fast. There’s a lot of suspension of disbelief necessary for this book, and when Goto hands you a situation, you better just take it and roll with it, or else this book will not be entertaining. The Kappa is an odd but necessary feature, which I sort of just considered a figure of mythology and change, rather than really take it seriously.

But odd and highly implausible scenes aside, the main focus of the plot is so much more clearer in the latter half of the book, and that’s what makes it great for me. It makes the plot, retrospectively anyway, make sense. There are quite a few scenes that make you wonder why that was included, or that seem to come out of nowhere. In the end though, this book is a coming-of-age novel, even if that coming-of-age happens to be twenty years overdue.

So that’s two things you should know: be ready to suspend your disbelief and you have to stick with this book if you want it to mean something.

As for the characters, a lot of them seem to remain irritatingly static for the majority of the book. And this is mostly because of the unreliable narrator, so be sure to take everything she says with a grain of salt. The narrator and her sisters—Slither, PG, and Mouse—are a diverse set of characters, and I liked their dynamic. I’ll have to say that I like Mouse the most, and Slither reminds me a lot of my own sister. There’s also the narrator’s best friends (whose names escape me at the moment), who are fairly flat despite the large amount of character traits they’re given. I kind of glossed over their parts.

The protagonist/narrator is probably the hardest character to deal with, simply because she’s stubborn and one-track minded. But her struggle (that of growing up), while oddly timed and strange, is a relatable one, and her reluctance to do so is rather subtle, which I enjoyed discovering over the course of the book.

The writing is conversational. Often there are short sentences with no verb, just nouns. Which gets on my nerves, because it’s usually just a comment. No verb. Just comment. A cynical comment. (I just cringed typing that out.)

But if you stick it out, the coming-of-age story really does come through. I don’t know if I’ll ever read it again, maybe just some scenes, but it was a good story, and I’m glad I read it once.

Recommendation: Read. Especially if you are fond of coming-of-age stories. The Kappa may throw you off, but it really is a nice story.

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