Numamushi | Critical Book Review

Mina Ikemoto Ghosh’s Numamushi invites readers into a mesmerizing realm where vivid characters, haunting realities, and the power of words converge seamlessly. Set against the post-World War II backdrop of Japan, Numamushi, a child marked by the scars of napalm, emerges as a unique protagonist raised by the guardian spirit of a river. Ghosh skillfully blurs the boundaries between humanity and nature, delivering a narrative that challenges conventional fairytales.

A Precocious Protagonist: Numamushi’s Charismatic Journey

Numamushi, the precocious main character, effortlessly bridges the gap between wonder and hate, humanity and beast. Ghosh skillfully avoids the pitfalls of crafting a child protagonist for mature audiences, presenting Numamushi with a charm that never wanes. The endearing nature of Numamushi shines through, adding depth to the story, as seen in moments like his offer to “go and bite [someone’s] ankles” in defense of a friend.

Masterful Character Portrayals: Few Words, Vivid Impact

Despite a limited cast, Ghosh brings characters like Mizukiyo and the river guardian to life with succinct yet vivid descriptions. The characters’ personalities are artfully conveyed in a few sentences, showcasing Ghosh’s mastery in storytelling: “If Mizukiyo’s voice was the river, Tora’s was the mountain. When he talked… his words were firm and sunlit, cutting solidly through haze and rain.”

The Weight of Words: A Thematic Exploration

Numamushi’s fundamental theme revolves around the significance of words and their influence on man and beast. Ghosh’s careful selection and placement of words underscore the essence of the narrative. The lesson imparted by Mizukiyo, “Words are water, after all, and water is precious. Easily wasted,” highlights Ghosh’s keen understanding of the profound impact of language.

Varied Perspectives on Words: A Lure, a Link, a Representation

The narrative explores how words hold different meanings for each character, from Numamushi’s embrace of words as a lure into the unknown to Mizukiyo’s view of words as a link to the past. Tora grapples with words representing the present, while the river guardian dismisses the human inclination to assign names, emphasizing the unique perspectives each character brings to the tale.

Unsettling Allure: Embracing Harsh Realities

Numamushi fearlessly embraces the harsh realities often overlooked in fairytales. Ghosh takes risks, presenting intense scenes of consumption and incorporating vivid black and white illustrations that enhance the story’s unsettling allure. The novella breaks traditional fairytale molds, steering away from princesses and dragons, delving instead into curses and the raw, unforgiving pain within each character.

Raw and Unforgiving: Pain and Healing

Ghosh’s untraditional narrative allows Numamushi to breathe and intertwine around themes of love, forgiveness, and pain. The story contemplates the brutal nature of both man and beast without explicitly comparing them. Healing, as Numamushi reflects, emerges from the raw pain experienced by humans, paralleling the venom that snakes possess to protect their stomachs.

Conclusion: Numamushi’s Captivating Escape

In conclusion, Numamushi stands as a captivating novella that defies traditional fairytale boundaries. Ghosh’s adept blend of enchantment and stark reality, coupled with thoughtful prose and skillful characterization, creates a world that lingers in the reader’s mind. With rich thematic depth and compelling storytelling, Numamushi showcases Ghosh’s literary prowess, offering readers an incredibly lovely yet bittersweet escape.

Publisher, Genre, Print Length, and ISBN

PublisherGenrePrint LengthISBN
Lanternfish PressFantasy / Fairy Tale112 pages9781941360774

Mina Ikemoto Ghosh’s Numamushi invites readers into a mesmerizing realm where vivid characters, haunting realities, and the power of words converge seamlessly. Set against the post-World War II backdrop of Japan, Numamushi, a child marked by the scars of napalm, emerges as a unique protagonist raised by the guardian spirit of a river. Ghosh skillfully…