Earthings, a novel by Sayaka Murata is the second title translated from Japanese to English by the author. Convenience Store Woman, (the other title) has the similar tone and ease of readability as Earthlings, however, Earthlings explores far darker corners of what it means to be a member of civilized society here on planet earth.
The first decade of Natsuki’s life was relatively unremarkable, save for an emotionally unavailable father, and a verbally abusive mother and older sister. Two egregious events occur for Natsuki in middle school, which changes the course of her life. She falls into her own thoughts, having constructed a belief that she is, indeed, an alien, and her stuffed hedgehog, Piyyut, keeps her informed of what she must do for her home planet. She complies, hoping to one day return home.
Fast-forward 23 years, and Natsuki is secretly living her life on the fringes of society, still somewhat clinging to her childhood fantasy, but masks her beliefs in a faux marriage with a man who shares similar beliefs about all of the “pointless” expectations of society. An unlikely pairing of Natsuki, her husband, and her cousin (with whom she has a checkered past), decide to form their own reality, which goes entirely against the grain of societal standards.
In the final act of the book, things quickly spiral out of control in a most horrific sequence of events, which will likely leave readers shocked and perhaps uncertain as to how to feel.
This book explores an extreme, at times satirical perspective on the horrors of what can follow child abuse, as well as other ignored and untreated emotional wounds. Despite her actions throughout the book, Natsuki is hurt, and lost, and feels unloved. She feels continually more rejected by society, as she gets older, and feels less interested in what it has to offer. While a lot of she and her husband’s thoughts and ideas are fringe at best, and downright maniacal at worst, many of her other thoughts are poignant, and worth exploring with concern to one’s own place in humanity.
This book is well written, and easy to read, but at times can be difficult to stomach.