The Fox Woman by Kij Johnson

I don’t even know how to properly write about this book. One of my favorite books of the year? Yes. One of my favorite books of all time? I’m thinking so. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book that was more lyrical, more poignant, more beautifully written than this book. And it still manages to retain it’s readability. So often I get lost with books that are wordy…but this book isn’t exactly wordy, it’s more that it reads like a giant piece of poetry. It shows what the English language is capable of and I can’t believe that I waited this long to read it..or any Kij Johnson for that matter. I think she gets the prize for being the first person to make it to my favorite authors list with just one book.

The story centers around Kaya No Yoshifuji, his wife, Shikujo and a fox named Kitsune. The story goes back and forth between entries in Yoshifuji’s notebook, Shikujo’s pillow book and Kitsune’s diary. It tells the story of love, deceit, mysticism, magic and fidelity all through interweaving viewpoints of the same scenario. Yoshifuji has moved himself and his wife to the countryside of Japan after a work related upset. Their marriage is strained to begin with because Shikujo misses the city. But it becomes more strained when Yoshifuji becomes obsessed with the foxes on their property…foxes that Shikujo comes to despise because of the attention they earn from her husband.

We learn that the foxes, particularly Kitsune, have become obsessed with Yoshifuji too. And that she’ll do anything to become human and bring Yoshifuji under the spell of love with her. A spell that would spell disaster for Yoshifuji and Shikujo’s marriage. What follows is something so unique, yet based on Japanese folklore. Something that Johnson has made completely her own. And while Kitsune puts Yoshifuji under her spell, us as the reader fall under the same spell.

The book is filled with short haikus written between the characters and all of the poetry is so beautiful. But it doesn’t stop at just the poetry. I was amazed that Johnson kept up this gorgeous use of the English language throughout the book’s 382 pages. Such a true gift, she has. This book is a delight…a gift to all readers. It’s rare that you get to see a story so beautifully told. That doesn’t just have a good plot, but the words themselves are a delight to read.

I don’t know that “delight” is the word I should be using. There’s a lot of hurt, a lot of betrayal, a lot of sadness in it’s words too. But ultimately it’s a thing of beauty that talks about all the forms of love. Between man and woman, between parents and their children, between humans and nature, between humans and the allure of magic. Definitely one for the keeper shelves.

Also, I wanted to apologize for being so distant from the blogging world lately. I’ve been sort of stuck in a rut, but I’m getting out of it. I hope. So I’m going to do like Ana sometimes does, because I like the idea. If there’s anything I’ve missed in the last couple of weeks, please let me know in the comments!!! It’s not that I haven’t wanted to read your blogs…quite the opposite actually. It’s just that life has been…well…life. So please update me!!! Leave me links to things I’ve missed if you don’t mind. Love you all and miss you all!


10 Responses

  1. I really need to read this. Someone permanently borrowed it from the library, so I will have to buy it later in the year. Glad you liked it!

  2. this mama was getting worried. First I hope that flu is finally gone, and second I hope you are alright.

    I can tell I am overwhelmed with the amount of tbr books I have because everything everyone else reviews doesn’t seem like something I have to run and get! (thank goodness..after all I DO still have a wishlist.. even that isn’t as long as it used to be !!!..however, thanks to some sons of mine it’s about to grow again)

  3. Good to have you back Chris 😀 Sounds like this is beautifully written. I so admire those with mastery of the written word. I myself am sorely lacking in that area, but it certainly does not lessen my appreciation of reading it. Wonderful review…TY 😀

  4. It’s good to have you back, Chris! I am so glad you loved this one. I read it before I started blogging and now may have to read it again!

  5. I loooooved this one too; I read it a couple yrs ago & now I’m tempted to reread it!

  6. Sounds beautiful. This has gone onto my to-read asap list! Lovely review, thanks Chris. Hope you get out of your rut soon mate. I’ve been absent a lot too but always enjoy reading your blog xxx

  7. Kelly, 😦 That really sucks. But I can tell you that it is worth buying!! It was really good!!

    Pat, Hey mama! I’m doing ok…just a rough couple of days but nothing I won’t make it through! Stomach flu seems to be gone…now I’ve just been stuck in a rut :/ I hope you pick something good with your gift card 😀

    Kelly, and me both!! I’m sorely lacking when it comes to the written word as well :p Wish I had that gift. But this book was phenomenal!!

    Gavin, Thanks 🙂 I’d LOVE to hear your thoughts on this one if you decide to read it again 🙂

    Eva, Hey!!! How are you stranger? Like I have room to talk :p Oh you should reread it!! It’s so very good, isn’t it?

    Mariel, Hey you 🙂 Hooray for going on the read ASAP list! I think you’d like it. And I’m working my way out of my rut, thanks 🙂

  8. I’ve known since Ana’s review that I had to read this, but I admit there’s a bit of trepidation there. When people start saying how beautifully written something is I tend to get scared. Not because I don’t love beautiful writing–but it intimidates me. You’ve brought me another step closer though…knocked away one more block in the wall I’d erected. Yes, both you and Ana made this book sound too wonderful to let my paranoia stand in the way. 😛

  9. I got this a while back and loved it. It is such a beautiful book. Have you read her short stories? There are quite a few on her website.

  10. I’ve heard really good things about this, when I was researching for the suggested reading list for the JLC3. But, you’re the first person I ‘know’ who’s actually read it, and I loved reading your thoughts. I guess it does deserve a place on that list, after all! (Really glad you’re in again for the JLC5.)

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