Two words: spider demon!
Meiko and her twelve year old daughter, Aiko, have been at Camp Minidoka, an internment camp in Idaho, for two years when an unidentified illness begins to spread through the camp.
Archie is a preacher with a past that haunts him.
He’d thought he’d outrun it, but all this time Hell had been waiting for him with its mouth wide open.
Fran is a journalist who’s on the verge of uncovering the story of her career.
You’d think the spider demon would be the scariest thing about this book, but it’s not. The real monster in this story is fear of the other and the hatred it spawns.
This story is mostly set in the 1940’s and, although I’d love to be able to say otherwise, it could easily have been written about today. The racism and xenophobia are incredibly difficult to read about because, although this book is fiction, the interactions between the characters are all too real, and that’s terrifying.
I loved Aiko, an outcast wherever she goes because her mother is Japanese and her father is white. She’s resilient, she’s resourceful and she spends her free time drawing demons.
The demons, Aiko said, knew everything.
I wish more time had been spent with the jorogumo but Google has answered my outstanding questions and shown me some decidedly creepy artwork so I’m all good. For now. I need more Japanese mythology in my life.
The world is rarely what it shows you.
I definitely want to read more books by this author.
Content warnings include death by suicide, miscarriage, physical abuse, racism and xenophobia.
Once Upon a Blurb
As World War II rages, Meiko shares eerie childhood stories, of yokai and malevolent demons, with her daughter, Aiko. These stories hold them together as they must confront the horror of being shipped to an internment camp in the Midwest. Never mind that Aiko is American, that her father is in the US Navy. They are Japanese.
As Meiko and Aiko learn to live in captivity, a contagion begins to spread in the camp. What starts as a cold quickly becomes fits of violence and aggression, even death, and soon a government medical team arrive, more sinister than the illness itself.
Meanwhile strange things are happening outside the camp. Wrecked weather balloons and tragic explosions draw Fran, a German expat journalist, and Archie, a widowed minister, into a world of conspiracy and creatures in the shadows.
As the world tears itself apart, it falls to Meiko, Fran and Archie to lay their country’s demons to rest.