Penance

TEN-year-olds Sae, Maki, Akiko, Yuko and Emily are classmates and good friends.

One day, while out playing, a stranger asks for help and manages to separate Emily from her friends. A few hours later, the girls find Emily murdered.

Unfortunately, they are unable to describe the stranger accurately to the authorities. As a result, the killer is never caught.

The girls feel extremely guilty for what happened to Emily. Slowly, their friendship deteriorates.

They grow up, but the terrible incident has never stopped haunting them.

It does not help that Asako, Emily’s mother, is furious with the girls for not being able to describe the culprit in detail.

She vows they will pay for her daughter’s death.

This dark tale unfolds through the eyes of Emily’s four best friends, and her mother.

Author Minato is immensely talented in getting her readers immersed in the characters and the story.

I was immediately hooked from the first chapter. I just could not stop reading this book because I was eager to know the outcome.

The ending was totally unexpected, painting the entire story in a new light.

I will not reveal too much, and let you discover the truth yourself.

You will hate Emily’s mother Asako when the story starts. You will find her to be unreasonable and irrational.

But when Asako tells the side of her story, you will sympathise with her.

You will understand that no mother should ever bury her child. You can feel the immense pain the character goes through.

The best way to describe the gripping and disturbing novel is with the 3Gs – guilt, grudge, and grief.