Suspense, compassion and magical thinking uplifts in Tohoku tale

Cover of "The House of the Lost on the Cape"


By Sachiko Kashiwaba, translated by Avery Fischer Udagawa; illustrated by Yukiko Saito (New York: Yonder: Restless Books for Young Readers, 2023, 224 pp., $18, hardcover)

When the earthquake dramatically shakes the northern coast of Tohoku, a young girl traumatized by the recent loss of her parents is befriended by a woman fleeing an abusive marriage. Their bond intensifies as an alarm sounds to alert them to seek higher ground as the impending tsunami threatens to intercede. They grasp hands tightly and escape just in time. Finding shelter in the gym of the middle school, an elderly woman Kiwa Yamana claims them as her estranged daughter-in-law Yui and granddaughter Hiyori.

Desperate to stay together, they accept their new identity and follow Bachan Yamana as she finds them a place to stay in Kitsunezaki.

With the loss and devastation of the tsunami, how do the people in the small seaside towns begin to heal? How do they take care of each other? Author Sachiko Kashiwaba enters the depth of this experience with her familiar magical touch for young readers to explore.

She seamlessly weaves in legends and fantastical encounters as the adventure unfolds.

Anything becomes possible when Bachan shares the legends of the region using the local dialect, “Mugashi, mugashi, atta zumo na.” (Once upon a time in a certain place . . . ). They learn the story of a mayoiga or lost house, and where the town of Kitsunezaki, or Fox Point, first began. They encounter visits by kappa, river spirits; Jizo, guardian statues, and zashiki warashi, house spirits. They fear the Sea Snake, not knowing what form he might take.

The story’s realism and fantasy begin to meld and the trajectory of the story propels the reader into another realm. Kashiwaba interjects suspense, compassion and a bit of magical thinking to uplift us all.

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