Motoya is part of a rising generation of Japanese writers, many of them women, who write with deadpan confidence and inventiveness about families, work and the female experience . . . Motoya, in Asa Yoneda’s subtle and unobtrusive translation, never uses the word ‘yearning,’ but [the title] story, like so many others, is saturated with a sense of longing. Her characters seem to be searching for the strangest, and most estranged, parts of themselves. While not explicitly feminist, her female protagonists share a capacity for small rebellions, sudden twitches against life-long habits of conformity . . . Motoya’s signature, a gift she shares with other contemporary writers such as Carmen Maria Machado or International Man Booker–winner Han Kang, is the striking image . . . As a result these arresting, hyper-real stories linger in the imagination and tend to engage your curiosity rather than your empathy . . . By the first few sentences of The Lonesome Bodybuilder, you know you’re hearing the voice of a remarkable writer; by the end of “An Exotic Marriage,” you’re certain that Yukiko Motoya’s shivery, murmuring voice will never completely leave you.
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