the Goddess Chronicle by Natsuo Kirino (2008)
“My name is Namima – ‘Woman-Amid-the-Waves’. I am a miko. Born on an island far, far to the south, I was barely sixteen when I died. Now I make my home among the dead, here in this realm of darkness. How did this come to pass?”
 Namima and her older sister by a year, Kamikuu, are of one of the noblest families on the island of Umihebi. Their grandmother is the island’s priestess and when Kamikuu is 6, she is taken from the family to follow her grandmother’s role, while Namima is to become the outcast of the island. Because her sister is yin, she has to be yang, and has to take care of the dead and live at the funeral place and not see anyone.

But before that happens, she has to take care of the basket of leftover food from Kamikuu, and although the island is poor and starving, the food is to be thrown off the cliff every night and that’s Namima’s job. One day, she meets another outcast, Mahito, and he begs for the food for his mother who is pregnant, and if she doesn’t give birth to a girl, his family will remain outcasts. She falls in love, breaks a lot of rules, becomes pregnant and decides to run away with him.

This book wasn’t anything like I expected from the woman who has written some of the goriest books I have read (Grotesque, Out and Real World). Because this is just beautiful. I really felt the unfairness of the island’s rules, and then the shock of what came next. I really enjoyed the rest of the tale and especially that part when Namima became a wasp, and the story of Izanami and Izanaki.

I discovered after reading the book, that it is part of a wonderful series called Canongate Myths (least informative webpage ever?), which retell ancient myths and are written by quite a few well-known authors. I have already put a number of them on my wish list, including Jeanette Winterson, Ali Smith, Margaret Atwood and A.S Byatt.  What I miss, and have tried to google, is the background of the story. I found the story of Izanami and Izanaki, but I’m really curious about the island and what time it is set.