Jennifer Down’s story about the endeavour of grief – what we do, what we can’t fix, what we’re held to when a loved-one struggles to remain strong – is both touching and telling. Set from a sibling’s point of view, Aokigahara balances the responsibilities of a daughter with the grief of a sister so delicately it’s easy to imagine what families go through after one member takes their life.
When the protagonist travels to Japan to retrace her brother’s last steps, the weight of the activity is palpable. The reader understands what is at stake from a hollowness that the character never allows to overwhelm her; sadness is a silent but certain partner. And yes, Aokigahara is a work that is testimony to the fact that narrative can be, in that Gestalt way, greater then the sum of its parts, making for a magical read.