Life Ceremony


English language

Published Sept. 24, 2022 by Grove/Atlantic, Incorporated.

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5 stars (6 reviews)

With Life Ceremony, the incomparable Sayaka Murata is back with her first collection of short stories ever to be translated into English. In Japan, Murata is particularly admired for her short stories, which are sometimes sweet, sometimes shocking, and always imbued with an otherworldly imagination and uncanniness.

In these twelve stories, Murata mixes an unusual cocktail of humor and horror to portray both the loners and outcasts as well as turning the norms and traditions of society on their head to better question them. Whether the stories take place in modern-day Japan, the future, or an alternate reality is left to the reader’s interpretation, as the characters often seem strange in their normality in a frighteningly abnormal world. In “A First-Rate Material”, Nana and Naoki are happily engaged, but Naoki can’t stand the conventional use of deceased people’s bodies for clothing, accessories, and furniture, and a disagreement around this threatens …

2 editions

Don't read this while eating!

3 stars

I enjoyed Sayaka Murata's previous two books, so I was excited about this short story collection. I love short stories! But LIFE CEREMONY was hit or miss for me. Mostly miss.

The only story I enjoyed from start to finish was "Eating the City," on finding nature (in this case, edible nature) between the gaps of concrete of a large city—but with a twist of horror. And as horrifying as it was, the title story, "Life Ceremony," stayed in my mind long after I finished it, as I mulled over how customs can change so drastically from generation to generation, and where we draw lines between right and wrong.

Overall, though, I'm disappointed. I'm not all that squeamish, but large portions of this book were so gross that I ended up skimming or even skipping pages. (Think bodily fluids and human flesh-type gross.) All of the stories are super weird—which …

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