In the afterword to this collection of seven ghostly tales, author Mariko Koike states that a powerful awareness of death entered her consciousness at an early age. Her strange yet beautiful stories seem to assert that there is no clear boundary between the living and the dead, or indeed between truth and fiction.
Of note are several tales that involve dead people returning to the world of the living. In Nubatama no (Darkness), the narrator is a college professor of Western art, now in his mid-forties, who lost his wife to an illness two years ago. She was a former student, 13 years his junior, and they had gotten married when she was 22, but their happiness had been cut short just ten years later. The narrator was devastated by the loss, his grief all the deeper for having loved his wife the more, and with no children from the marriage either, he struggles to find the will to go on. In the time since her death, he has increasingly missed work and stopped taking good care of himself. Then his dead wife begins to appear before him, and as her visits grow in frequency, he sometimes feels even the touch of her hand in his. He yearns for her to lead him by that hand into the world of the dead where she awaits.
In Kaeru (Return), the female narrator is visited by her younger brother, who died at the age of 11 but now appears before her as a man in his forties. In Kōfuku na ie (Happy Home), a story with a tricky twist to it, one of two daughters who died 42 years ago in a family murder-suicide is the narrator, still wandering about in this world.
The ghosts in these stories do not frighten the people to whom they appear. Rather, their living counterparts respond to them believingly, welcoming their existence. Even so, the tales do send chills up and down one’s spine?all the more so because they offer no clear linkages of cause and effect, and no resolution of underlying mysteries.