In February something very very very exciting happened – which I haven’t yet written about here. All the details have finally been worked out, so I can now make my small announcement.
My novel Fog Island Mountains won the Center for Fiction’s Christopher Doheny Award, sponsored by Audible. The book will be published this coming fall with Tantor Publishing. Here is what the book is about:
Huddled beneath the volcanoes of the Kirishima (Fog Island) mountain range in southern Japan, the inhabitants of small town Komachi are waiting for the biggest of the summer’s typhoons. South African expatriate Alec Chester has lived in Komachi for nearly forty years. Alec considers himself an ordinary man, with common troubles and mundane achievements—until his doctor gives him a terminal cancer diagnosis and his wife disappears into the gathering storm. Kanae Chester flees from Alec’s diagnosis, even going so far as to tell a recently renewed childhood friendship that she is already a widow. Her willful avoidance of the truth leads her to commit a grave infidelity and only when Alec is suspected of checking himself out of the hospital to commit a quiet suicide does Kanae come home to face what it will mean to lose her husband.
Narrating this story is Azami, one of Komachi’s oldest and most peculiar inhabitants, the daughter of a famous storyteller with a mysterious story of her own. Azami is interested in the kitsune folktales, stories of foxes that transform into women to trick and then marry the men they have selected, but once discovered were forced to abandon their families. Azami knows the foxes as a healer, but she learned of them first as a child, from her Grandfather’s stories and from her Grandmother’s deep-rooted superstitions.
As Azami writes (and invents and rewrites) Alec and Kanae’s story, also telling tangential stories about the couple’s three children and other Komachi townspeople, Fog Island Mountains becomes the story of an entire town and how it submits to this typhoon, how it watches a beloved English teacher get ready to die, and how it wonders at the unexpected disappearance of his faithful wife. In this Azami is re-inventing the kitsune folktale, revealing herself and cannibalizing her own difficult history.
The book is about illness and grief, about mixed culture families and relationships, and ultimately about storytelling. And (I tell you this because no one might ever notice) it is also a contemporary re-working of the longest of the classical Japanese poetry forms, the chōka (長歌).
I’m obviously really excited about this. (And obviously a little terrified, too). Once the book has a cover, I’ll post a link. And I will probably post a few excerpts over the summer.