In the follow up to Chupeco’s first spooky novel The Girl From the Well, Tark and his cousin travel to Japan when their friend and a ghost hunting crew go missing within the Aokigahara forest. Infamously known as the “suicide forest”, they must venture in and search for a village that exists in legends in order to rescue their beloved friend before ancient ghosts make that task impossible.
Full disclosure, I had The Girl From the Well on my to-be-read pile and hadn’t gotten to it yet. I read The Suffering not realizing it was the sequel and hadn’t realized until several chapters into the book. Which actually goes to say that it’s not imperative to have read the first to enjoy the second in this case. While there are a few circumstances related to Tark that, at first, seemed confusing but, for the most part, the reader can quickly pick up and figure out what’s happening.
For those who know me, they know I love my ghost stories. I also enjoy ghost hunting shows, so that added aspect in the story was a surprise bonus. Aokigahara is a real forest, and I had heard of it before in an episode of Destination Truth. The forest’s grim reputation is real, with roughly an average of 80-100 suicides taking place inside Aokigahara every year. It’s a mystery why so many end their lives within the tall trees at the base of Mount Fuji and therefore providing inspiration for books, like The Suffering, to creatively explore the legends and theories. The inclusion of a real mysterious location definitely added to my enjoyment of this book.
I loved the diversity in this book, not just with the characters but also the cultural settings. Japan is rich with traditions, and Chupeco weaves her take on the legends into her second novel of this series. While admittedly, some of the intricate rituals lost me in the complexity of it, the storytelling and eerie world-building is absolutely successful. She also tackles some interesting character dynamics where Tark and his spirit companion are concerned, as well as he with his fellow classmates. I felt some of it could have been developed more, as it felt a bit out of place at times. It’s almost like his interactions with the ghostly world felt more real and intense than with the living world.
Overall, a very creepy read. Perfect for fans of Anna Dressed in Blood or Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. Stay tuned for next Monday’s spotlight on this series for your chance to win both The Girl in the Well and The Suffering!