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Ghost of a smile : stories
Deborah Boliver Boehm
Adult Fiction BOEHM

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From Publishers' Weekly:

Inspired by Japanese tales collected by folklorist Lafcadio Hearn, Boehm set out to write "escapist pleasure-fare" that would convey her affection for her adopted country. These eight stories, three of novella length, each include, or retell, a traditional Japanese ghost story, related with panache and humor. Many ghoulish things happen in these tales: people suddenly acquire blank, egglike faces, foxes turn into humans, sumo wrestlers become werewolves and a mysterious caf‚ is frequented by the undead. In the engaging "Naked in the Moonlight," a young goldfish peddler makes several comic attempts in various costumes to gain admission to an exclusive nightclub called Hell. Finally, in frustration, he arrives in his traditional peasant garb and is readily admitted. He encounters a beautiful woman with a terrible secret, but the tone of the story is gentle and sweet and the young man eventually connects with his soul mate. "The Beast in the Mirror" plays fast and loose with sumo tradition in several ways, including having a woman become head of a sumo stable. This story of a remorseful sumo werewolf shows a delicate use of language, as the lead character describes his feelings of love as "like having hives on my heart," and the light in the Ginza as "the color of lemon marmalade." The longer tales tend to verbosity, veering off on new tangents when they should end. Stunning cover art by Kyosai Kawanabe, "Hell Courtesan," is appropriate to the collection and an attention grabber for display. (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

From Library Journal:

These are some of the best variations on classic ghost, werewolf, and vampire tales (all based here on traditional Japanese folklore) to come along in quite a while. Perhaps it is their setting in a beautifully if sometimes ruefully rendered modern-day Japan that makes them especially compelling. Perhaps it is the brilliant use of language, which begs comparison to some of the best storytellers working today. But more likely it is the central theme of the stories that what truly haunts us in life is our own faults and failures, especially our own inability to find and hold onto love. This idea, connecting these imaginative, funny, grotesque, and original tales, makes them something more to think about than the average supernatural yarn. It may be quibbling to mention the faults of stories of this caliber overuse of ornate vocabulary, the tendency to sum things up a little too neatly at the end but one hopes a writer this good will learn and continue to improve. Recommended for all fiction collections. Tom Cooper, Richmond Heights Memorial Lib., MO (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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