Author: Sayaka Murata
Publisher: Granta Books
Genre: Literary fiction, Contemporary Fiction
Release Date: October 8 2020
I requested Earthlings on Netgalley as soon as it was available because I was in love with Convenience Store Woman (I actually ended up gifting my copy to someone because I was determined to make sure everyone I knew read it). I didn’t know much about the book, but I knew I loved Sayaka Murata’s writing style and I wanted to know what this ‘coming of age’ book was about.
Here is the synopsis pulled from Netgalley:
Natsuki isn’t like the other girls. Together with her cousin Yuu, she spends her summers in the wild Nagano mountains, hoping a spaceship will take her home. When a terrible sequence of events threatens to part the cousins for ever, they make a promise: survive, no matter what.
Now, Natsuki is grown. She lives quietly in an asexual marriage, pretending to be normal, and hiding the horrors of her childhood from her family and friends. But dark shadows from Natsuki’s past are pursuing her. Fleeing the suburbs for the mountains of Nagano, Natsuki prepares herself for a reunion with Yuu. Will he still remember their promise? And will he help her keep it?
A dark and magical reckoning with what it might take to survive a shattered life, Earthlings is an exhilarating cosmic flight that will leave you reeling.
I actually ended up reading this book in just one sitting (I picked it up at 10pm and finished at 3am…) I just could not put it down or pry myself away from the bizarre story. The book is an absolute whirlwind of a ride and I found it roller-coaster of emotions.
Anyone going into this thinking it will be as tame as Convenience Store Woman will get a shock however, although I would say some of underlining themes are the same. Natsuki is our main protagonist and I felt so much sorrow and pain for her. We follow her as she grows up with a pretty broken household and the only person who truly treats her with any kind of love or understands her is her cousin Yuu. Outside of her homelife, School is troubling and continuously gets worse for her with some horrific outcomes (this is quite a touchy topic I don’t want to discuss in my review but worth a trigger warning). This is a book which touches upon the coping mechanisms of a young girl who grows up to have an outlook on life and the ‘norms’ that are expected of her. It touches upon misogyny, incest, cannibalism, sexual assault and more – so don’t be fooled by the short book it packs a punch.
Because the book was short and so much was happening, it really felt like every time I went to another page I expected something absolutely crazy to happen, and it was safe to say this happened throughout.
I really enjoyed this book and was thinking about it for a long time afterwards. I really got Ryū Murakami and Han Kang vibes from this (I guess this was from the dark themes) both of these writers have have written some of my favourite books, so who can blame me for liking this one so much. I cannot wait for another Sayaka Murata novel!
*This book was received for review.
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