November 11, 2020 8:36 AM EST

Two strange saleswomen interrupting a cantankerous man’s day, a tree worshipped for its magical powers and a young woman haunted by the ghost of her nagging aunt are just some of the characters in Aoko Matsuda’s clever and whimsical collection of short stories, Where the Wild Ladies Are, translated by Polly Barton. Her retelling of traditional Japanese ghost stories with a feminist twist serves readers supernatural ideas in a matter-of-fact way, pairing otherworldly situations with the mundane reality of everyday life. Through each interaction between the living and the dead, the author playfully reminds us that the “wild” women of these ancient tales are long overdue to have their stories told. While each story in the anthology, which won an English PEN award, is written from a distinct perspective, they touch on similar themes of gender roles and the expectations placed upon women in modern-day Japan and feel cohesive together, providing a fresh take on traditional tales.

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