Dec 8, 2014

Book Review: Fog Island Mountains by Michelle Bailat-Jones

Fog Island Mountains
Fog Island Mountains by Michelle Bailat-Jones
Published November 4, 2014; Tantor
Genre: literary fiction

There are two dramatic stories going on in this novel set in the Fog Island Mountains in southern Japan: a mortally ill South African man waits in vain for his Japanese wife to return home so they can confront together the expected diagnosis of the doctor at the local hospital. Alec's wife, however, is unable to confront the reality of  the imminent loss of her husband and seeks escape in several ways.

The second story is that there is a massive typhoon heading towards the town and these mountains. The inhabitants of the small town must seek shelter at the same time as look for the missing Alec and his wife Kanae, both of whom disappear separately.

Interwoven into these two stories is the storyteller who describes the town's events as well as shows us a wild fox she rescued and healed, and the fox-spirit, the kitsune in Japanese folklore, that has cunning, stealth and other human qualities.

Engrossing literary novel - a moving story of love, fear, and reconciliation, beautifully written.

About the author:
Michelle Bailat-Jones is a writer and translator. Fog Island Mountains won the Christopher Doheny Award from the Center for Fiction in New York City. She translated Charles Ferdinand Ramuz s 1927 Swiss classic Beauty on Earth. She is the reviews editor at the web journal Necessary Fiction, and her fiction, poetry, translations, and criticism have appeared in a number of journals, including the Kenyon Review, Hayden’s Ferry Review, the Quarterly Conversation, PANK, Spolia Mag, Two Serious Ladies, and the Atticus Review. Michelle lives in Switzerland.

Publisher description:
What if you could rewrite a tragedy? What if you could give grace to someone's greatest mistake?
 Huddled beneath the volcanoes of the Kirishima mountain range in southern Japan, also called the Fog Island Mountains, the inhabitants of small town Komachi are waiting for the biggest of the summer’s typhoons. South African expatriate Alec Chester has lived in Komachi for nearly forty years. Alec considers himself an ordinary man, with common troubles and mundane achievements until his doctor gives him a terminal cancer diagnosis and his wife, Kanae, disappears into the gathering storm. Kanae flees from the terrifying reality of Alec’s diagnosis, even going so far as to tell a childhood friend that she is already a widow.

Narrating this story is Azami, one of Komachi’s oldest and most peculiar inhabitants, the daughter of a famous storyteller with a mysterious story of her own. A haunting and beautiful reinterpretation of the Japanese kitsune folktale tradition, Fog Island Mountains is a novel about the dangers of action taken in grief and of a belief in healing through storytelling.

For more reviews and for the book tour schedule, visit TLC Book Tours for Fog Island Mountains.
Thanks to the publisher and TLC for a review galley of this book.


  1. Harvee, I'm glad you enjoyed this literary novel, Fog Mountain Islands. I am intrigued by the concept of the kitsune. Very nice, concise review.

  2. This sounds different and very good - I've added it to my list. Thanks for sharing

  3. This does sounds different. The plot sounds intriguing.

    I really do need to read more books set in non Western cultures. I will put this book on my list.


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