Catfish Rolling – Clara Kumagai

There’s a catfish under the islands of Japan. That’s what shakes everything up: the catfish twisting and turning in the mud beneath us. It rolls and the ground trembles, water crashes, time cracks and breaks.

I hate that catfish.

Sora was only eleven years old when the catfish rolled in a way that changed everything. Time became something that was variable. In some place, time ticked away as it always had. In others, time slowed or sped up.

Sora and her father have been left to try to make sense of their new world, one that doesn’t include her mother.

We had been shaken. Our entire world shook.

This book is so many things I love to read about, all meshed together in a way that felt like time had changed for me too. There was the urgency I associate with a compulsive read but this was at odds with an almost tranquil feeling, as though I was casually wandering around absorbing everything this world had to offer.

It’s magical realism, it’s mythology, it’s philosophy, it’s sciency. It’s how the tremors and earthquakes we experience in our lives unbalance us. It’s figuring out who you are in a world that no longer makes sense to you. It’s the impact of grief on individuals and families over time.

I want to say it’s wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey … stuff, acknowledging it’s very likely I’ve bungled the reference entirely. Maybe it doesn’t fit this book at all but when I think about how time works in Sora’s world, wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey just sounds right.

Time runs as we expect it to. Time runs fast. Time runs slow. Some fast time runs faster than other fast time. Some slow time runs slower than other slow time. And the people in Sora’s world are only barely beginning to understand what it all means.

While I was satisfied with the answers I found, a number of my questions remain unanswered. Part of me is content to imagine exploring Sora’s world to gradually discover the answers myself. Another part of me wants bonus material in the form of newspaper articles, research papers and journal articles by the experts of this world: philosophers, scientists and historians, all sharing their theories.

‘We can get stuck in time, and time can get stuck in us’

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Zephyr, an imprint of Head of Zeus, for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Magic realism blends with Japanese myth and legend in an original story about grief, memory, time and an earthquake that shook a nation.

There’s a catfish under the islands of Japan and when it rolls the land rises and falls.

Sora hates the catfish whose rolling caused an earthquake so powerful it cracked time itself. It destroyed her home and took her mother. Now Sora and her scientist father live close to the zones – the wild and abandoned places where time runs faster or slower than normal. Sora is sensitive to the shifts, and her father recruits her help in exploring these liminal spaces.

But it’s dangerous there – and as she strays further inside in search of her mother, she finds that time distorts, memories fracture and shadows, a glimmer of things not entirely human, linger. After Sora’s father goes missing, she has no choice but to venture into uncharted spaces within the time zones to find him, her mother and perhaps even the catfish itself…

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