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…

Me Mam. Me Dad. Me. – Malcolm Duffy

It’s always been just Danny and his Mam, Kim. When Kim begins dating Callum, everything seems fine. Callum’s nice to Danny and Kim. But things quickly change. Soon, Callum begins hitting Danny’s Mam, as well as verbally and emotionally abusing her.

Never quite knew what would come out of his mouth. Or what he’d do next.

Danny discovers that what’s happening is called domestic violence and when he reads about it online he becomes scared that Callum will eventually kill his Mam. Danny doesn’t know what to do so he asks his friends what they’d do if someone was hitting their Mam. Almost all of them say they’d tell their Dad, who’d sort it out.

Danny has never met his Dad and doesn’t know anything about him, not even his name. He’s determined to find him, though. Danny will do anything to try to protect his Mam.

Danny speaks Geordie. It didn’t take me as long as I expected it would to get used to his voice, although there are some words he used that I still don’t know the meaning of. Danny is thirteen at the beginning of this book and fifteen at the end. A lot of the time it felt like he was younger.

This book tackles a difficult topic but, for the most part, it was done well. Danny initially doesn’t have words to describe what’s happening at home but once he does he learns about domestic violence. The helplessness of a child in that situation was explored well, with Danny desperate to help his Mam but at the same time he’s powerless to intervene.

I didn’t really buy the resolution of this story. There were a number of scenarios I would have found more likely than what actually happened but it wasn’t outside the realm of possibility.

Content warnings include bullying, domestic violence and sexual assault.

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

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Humorous and heartbreaking debut novel with the fresh, funny, honest voice of a 14-year-old Geordie lad recounting the trials and tribulations of family life and finding first love. 

Danny’s mam has a new boyfriend. Initially, all is good – Callum seems nice enough, and Danny can’t deny he’s got a cool set up; big house, fast car, massive TV, and Mam seems to really like him. 

But cracks begin to show, and they’re not the sort that can be easily repaired. As Danny witnesses Mam suffer and Callum spiral out of control he goes in search of his dad. 

The Dad he’s never met. 

Set in Newcastle and Edinburgh, this supremely readable coming-of-age drama tackles domestic violence head on, but finds humour and hope in the most unlikely of­ places.