In the sharply written linked stories of Where the Wild Ladies Are by Aoko Matsuda, contemporary takes on Japanese folktales lift a veil from a world where the living and the dead work side by side. Strikingly feminist slants on otherworldly creatures figure strongly. A woman who was told all her life that she was "just a girl" discovers one day that she might be a fox. A woman responding to a breakup through a regimen of hair removal is paid a visit by a deceased aunt who urges her to cultivate the power of her hair.
Although this collection is full of spirits, it focuses more on the challenges of connecting with one's self and others than on chills. Otherworldly women may confound a man with their unorthodox approach to door-to-door sales. Another one will babysit for a single mother. Several ghosts who knew each other in life come to work for the mysterious Mr. Tei, who hires people with special talents, living or dead. A woman discovers that some incense left behind by her late father has unusual properties, and comes to a realization about how she wants to use it. No knowledge of the source material is required, however interested readers will find a list and summary at the end of the collection. These stories are sometimes charming, sometimes surreal, and always intriguing. This first full collection of Matsuda's work to appear in English will leave readers eager for more. --Kristen Allen-Vogel, information services librarian, Dayton Metro Library