PENANCE by Kanae Minato
US pub date: April 17, 2017
Publisher: Mulholland Books
My review on Goodreads
Five girls go out to play and only four come home. Sae, Maki, Akiko, and Yuko were a close group of friends, joined by Emily in the summer of fourth grade, whose family just moved to their rural town. One day a man approaches them while they’re playing, asks if one of them could help him for a moment, and walks off with Emily. A few hours later, she’s found dead. The problem is, the four remaining girls can’t remember what the man looked like.
Penance takes place over a decade after these events, in five chapters told from the point of view of each of the girls and Emily’s mother, and focuses on the aftermath of the murder, and the effect it had on each of them.
I could not put this book down. It’s not really a gripping page-turner in the sense that there’s an urgent mystery to solve or anything like that. It’s more of a psychological thriller, which thoroughly examines the role that guilt plays in the lives of each of the girls, and how a promise they made to Emily’s mother prevents each of them from living a normal life. Each of the characters is compelling – Emily’s mother perhaps most of all – and the numerous layers to this story makes it an engaging read. Penance explores themes of guilt, rage, retribution, and revenge, centering entirely on a host of female characters, each with a distinct voice and personality.
Certain aspects of this story are unrealistic – something happens to each of the girls that’s like, ‘what are the odds?’ – but it honestly lends this story the air of a parable, something that feels more like a story than something that could happen in real life. But that’s okay. It’s a damn good story.
Fair warning: this is a dark book. Trigger warnings for rape, suicide, child abuse, and violence. Proceed with caution.
I received a copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you Netgalley, Mulholland Books, and Kanae Minato.