Recommended for ages 13+
Tark and Okiku, the boy and his ghost from The Girl from the Well are back in this sequel that takes a deeper look into the complex relationship Tark and Okiku now share following the events of the first book. Tark is now something of an exorcist, trapping wayward spirits in the bodies of dolls – a skill he learned spending time with the women of the temple in The Girl from the Well. Okiku is still restless and still seeks vengeance, spurring Tark on to hunt child murderers down so she can take her revenge and set the victims’ souls free. When he receives word that Kagura, one of the temple women, has disappeared along with a ghost hunting reality show crew in Aokigahara – Japan’s suicide forest – he and his cousin, Callie, head over to Japan to help: but what’s waiting for them is nothing they could ever have imagined.
I got sucked into The Suffering right away, because I enjoyed The Girl from the Well so much. We’ve got the same cast of characters returning for another go, and Ms. Chupeco gives us an increasingly deep look into the complex relationship between Okiku and Tark, with clues as to the changes in Okiku’s behavior between The Girl from the Well and The Suffering. There’s horror here, for sure, but there’s also mystery/thriller, and Japanese folklore. I was fascinated by the story behind Aokigahara, and Chupeco’s story takes the horror of a suicide forest even further to create a thoroughly skin-crawling reading experience. We get desiccated corpses, demonic dolls, avenging spirits, and a forest filled with dead people who may or may not want to stay that way- horror fans, turn down the lights and read this at your own risk. And when are we getting movies made about this series?
As with The Girl from the Well, more sensitive readers may shy away from the subject matter.