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The Water of Possibility

by Hiromi Goto

When the Kato family moves to rural Alberta, it is 12-year-old Sayuri who faces the toughest adjustment. Her father has a new job, and her mother, a horror-fiction writer, needs only her imagination to feel at home. Seven-year-old Keiji’s asthma may even improve, living in the country. But Sayuri has left behind friends, her swim team, and many other advantages of a big city. This upheaval is eclipsed, however, as sister and little brother somehow pass through their new home’s root cellar into another dimension. Instead of the anglo-Christian witches and lions of C.S. Lewis’s wardrobe, they encounter creatures of their own bedtime stories – a large purple-striped cat, a yamanba (mountain woman), a kappa (water sprite), a shape-shifting fox, an ogre. Then Keiji disappears.
Some 240 pages of this lively novel are taken up by Sayuri’s otherworld quest, every bit as arduous as those of Odysseus and King Arthur. When she finds her brother in the clutches of a wily fox-dictator, the resolution raises an eerily timely question: Are we more likely to defeat evil by revenge, or by forgiveness and grace? At times the fantastic adventures feel overwrought, a distorted reflection of battles raging in Sayuri’s pubescent psyche. The most engaging parts of the book concern her real-world relationships, especially with her feisty mother.
Goto, author of the award-winning adult novel A Chorus of Mushrooms, was born in Japan and lives and writes in Calgary. Her book is one of five titles in Coteau’s new In the Same Boat series published this fall. The other four explore stories of young Canadians of African, Ojibway, Polish, and Spanish backgrounds: Cheryl Foggo’s I Have Been in Danger, Ruby Slipperjack’s Little Voice, Sherie Posesorski’s Escape Plans, and Diana Vazquez’s Lost in Sierra. If they are as strong and appealing as The Water of Possibility, Coteau’s series is well launched.