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3.80  ·  Rating details ·  3,062 ratings  ·  608 reviews
The tense, chilling story of four women haunted by a childhood trauma.

When they were children, Sae, Maki, Akiko and Yuko were tricked into separating from their friend Emily by a mysterious stranger. Then the unthinkable occurs: Emily is found murdered hours later.

Sae, Maki, Akiko and Yuko weren't able to accurately describe the stranger's appearance to the police after t
Paperback, 240 pages
Published April 11th 2017 by Mulholland Books (first published June 11th 2009)
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Colette M I came here looking for the same answer. It’s left pretty ambiguous but I get the feeling he either went to prison or committed suicide. I personally …moreI came here looking for the same answer. It’s left pretty ambiguous but I get the feeling he either went to prison or committed suicide. I personally think he committed suicide.(less)
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Average rating 3.80  · 
Rating details
 ·  3,062 ratings  ·  608 reviews

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Edward Lorn
Apr 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I burned through the last 75% of this in one extended sitting. I only stopped to eat, use the bathroom, and update my status on Goodreads when something remarkable happened, which was quite often, I must say.

Penance was the perfect book for me at this moment in my life. I've grown impatient with the same old, same old, and this book was anything but that. Oddest of all is, I should have hated this book. It does three things that usually annoy the fuck out of me:

#1. It has something I call the "
Diane S ☔
Apr 18, 2017 rated it liked it
Five ten year old friends go to, their school to play, only four will return alive. The mother of the girl who does not return, threatens the remaining girls, telling them that by the time the statute of limitations is expired on her daughter's murder, the remaining girls must either write a confession or perform an act of penance.

I read this author's novel Confession last year and found it intriguing, and really loved the insidious nature of evil it depicted . This premise sounded equally intri
Jan 24, 2018 rated it liked it
Having loved Confessions Confessions by Kanae Minato I was eager to get my hands on Penance by the same author but unfortunately I felt Penance just didn't cut the mustard and left me feeling a little disappointed.

Set in Japan Four women, haunted by a childhood trauma. What really happened that day--and what followed, for each of them, in the years after?

I love how this author writes and she packs so much in such a short novel, terrific character development but because the story is told from five of the characters vie
Jul 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: best-of-2017
I loved this completely bizarre and unlikely story of friendship, guilt, unintended consequences and revenge. I ate it up in one breathless afternoon. It is surreal and more than a bit disturbing. The author, according to Wikipedia, "has been described in Japan as "the queen of iyamisu." Iyamisu (eww mystery) is a subgenre of mystery fiction which deals with grisly episodes and the dark side of human nature. Readers blurt out "eww" when they are reading iyamisu novels."

Well, okay, I get that. Th
Oct 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audiobook
Kanae Minato is back with another bone-chilling psychological thriller that will keep the reader guessing as they process the various angles of a similar event. When four young girls in a town along the Japanese countryside accept a new girl into their group the dynamic changes drastically. Emily brings a Tokyo flavour to their playing and the entire school class turns to her for guidance. While the girls are playing one day, a stranger approaches them and asks Emily to help him. Not sensing any ...more
Mar 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I loved “Confessions,” by Japanese author, Kanae Minato, so I was delighted to be given her latest novel, which has appeared in translation, for review. This is not a typical ‘crime’ novel, so I suppose my best description of it would be ‘literary crime;’ although in Japan, Minato is known as, “the queen of iyamisu,” (literally, a ‘eww’ mystery – where readers blurt out, “Eww” while reading her books. I am not sure I agree with this, but certainly much of the substance of this novel lies beneath ...more
Apr 20, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, ebook, faves, z2017
Kanae Minato is SO IMPRESSIVE. Seriously, she is insanely talented and I feel like she deserves to be one of the big names in writing, she's that good. She expertly weaves these stories about despicable and/or lost characters that are shocking, compelling and explosive. I have read two of her books that have been translated - this one & Confessions and they are both awesome. In fact, they're so awesome that I've been pushing her books onto anyone who will give me the time of day! I recommended h ...more
Innocence, trauma, blame, guilt, grudges, grief, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry...penance. Five children are playing, one is lured away, only four return home to their families. This novel focuses on the four little girls left behind, and of course the angry, grieving mother of the deceased. Why didn't the sicko pick you instead? Why don't you know more about what happened? Why hasn't the perp been caught yet? It's all your fault!

OMG, the premise of this novel is so emotionally complex. The rea
May 18, 2017 rated it liked it
Recommended to Idarah by: All The Books Podcast
Shelves: read-2017
Until 2010, Japan had a fifteen-year statute of limitations on the crime of murder...

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What a unique, dark and disturbing read. I breezed through this! I was expecting a creepy, thriller sort of read based on the premise of the book. However, it dealt more with complex relationships between girls and women after a traumatic event. I did find some things hard to believe, though and struggled with certain plot heavy scenes. But taken as a light, easy was pretty entertaining.
Liz Barnsley
Apr 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I read Confessions from this author and loved it, a one sitting read and Penance was another one sitting read. It was strange and dark, occasionally heart breaking and beautifully done. Translated from the Japanese by Philip Gabriel I was immediately hooked in to this tale of a group of children caught up in the horrific murder of one of their friends, a sinister threat from the girls mother and how that affected them growing up..

Penance is less a murder mystery and more a character drama – the
This short, fast-paced novel explores the lives of four young women who are forever altered by a tragedy in their youth. When Sae, Maki, Akiko and Yuka are ten years old, their friend Emily is assaulted and murdered by a man posing as an employee of their school. The murderer is never identified. When the girls are thirteen, Emily's mother Asako invites them to tea and gives them a choice: they must either find Emily's killer within the next fifteen years (before the statute of limitations on mu ...more
Jun 06, 2017 rated it liked it
assaulted and dead. The killer is never found. The girls are unable to describe him or even consistently identify the color of his clothes. The bereaved mother demands that the remaining four girls find the killer or perform an act of penance lest they suffer her revenge. 15 years later we get the story of each of these girls.

The set up is simple enough and from there we get a collection of connected short stories told from the perspective of the remaining 4 girls. Some have the looming creepin
The reason I enjoy Kanae Minato's writing and storytelling so much is because it is quintessentially Japanese. This book was fascinating to me, and though I didn't think it was as strong as her first book, Confessions, I savored every page. The plots and characters of Minato's books are so specifically Japanese that I'm surprised (and thrilled) that they get translated into English. I hope that the success of Minato's work means more translated Japanese fiction of all kinds. I'll be first in lin ...more
Aug 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: bought-own
Kanae Minato has done it again. I adored her first novel Confessions and I found this one equally absorbing. She can genuinely spin a tale like no other. Highly recommended!
Five girls go out to play and only four come home. Sae, Maki, Akiko, and Yuko were a close group of friends, joined by Emily in the summer of fourth grade, whose family just moved to their rural town. One day a man approaches them while they're playing, asks if one of them could help him for a moment, and walks off with Emily. A few hours later, she's found dead. The problem is, the four remaining girls can't remember what the man looked like.

Penance takes place over a decade after these events,
May 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
Penance is the first work I've read by this author. So I was not expecting the quality and quantity I got. Both. Keep that in mind while reading this review and that I was truly rather hit by a lightening bolt while not expecting anything much more than a circular who-dun-it.

And I do think the first chapters in this book with our narrator being the girl who became her French Doll- they were stunning. 5 star for this genre, absolutely. Almost immediately in the tone of the telling, the suppressi
Jessica Woodbury
If you enjoyed Minato's first translated novel, CONFESSIONS, then PENANCE won't disappoint. Another strong entry in the slow stream of grotesque female fiction from Japan from Minato and Natsuo Kirino. (Dear Publishing: can we please get a lot more of it, and could we possibly speed up the pace?)

Minato writes in the Japanese subgenre known as Iyamisu (loosely translated as eww mystery) that explores the darkest urges of human nature. Minato is particularly interested here in women and their role
Book Riot Community
Kanae Minato delivers with Penance exactly why I read Japanese mystery/crime: an underlying mystery, bursts of crime, and an exploration of human behavior that is slathered in darkness. Unfurling from one event—the murder of a girl and her mother’s threat—the course of four girls lives are changed. Minato explores the psychological repercussions of this trauma by alternating point of view between the girls on that fateful day, along with who they’ve grown to be fifteen years after the murder tha ...more
Dec 15, 2017 rated it liked it
A few days ago I read the Chinese translation of Penance, I found the concept and the main mystery about a young girl being found raped and murdered on the schoolyard in a peaceful small town to be quite intriguing.

The author obviously wants to bring the unreliability of memory and the destructive power of guilt into question by spreading four storylines about what the murdered girl's friends had done on the day of the tragedy and also how they dealt with the traumas years afterward. The differ
Fiona MacDonald
I spent a good portion of this book being seriously confused and probably missing out vital clues that would've helped me. This is not the fault of the author, rather the fact that I can't keep up with the different names!
The premise is amazing, and I am even more keen now to read 'Confessions' than I was before.
A group of 4 schoolfriends are playing one afternoon when they are approached by a maintenance man who needs help holidng his ladder steady. One of the girls, Emily agrees to go with hi
Apr 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
Penance. A punishment. Something done to repent a sin. How does someone atone for something that was never their fault? Five young girls went out to play but only four ever made it home. Those four girls did not witness the murder, but they did see the murderer, and the body, and have to live with the trauma. As if that were not enough, the killer was not caught, and the mother of the victim blamed them. In the course of that single event, the lives of these four girls was forever changed, and a ...more
Apr 08, 2017 rated it did not like it
I've won this title in a Goodreads giveaway and it was my first time reading Kanae Minato.

I set my expectations fairly high, knowing that her novel Confessions was a huge success and from reading the summary which promises a tense, chilling story. Plus, it was translated by Philip Gabriel, who translated a couple of Murakami's works.

First off, it wasn't tense and chilling at all: the narration is in the form of an exchange of letters, talking about the crimes after they took place. Five schoolgi
Sam (Clues and Reviews)
Apr 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
As children, Sae, Maki, Akiko and Yuko were separated from their friend, Emily. Hours later, she is found murdered. Unable to provide any answers to the police and unable to find the murderer, Emily’s mother curses the girls, vowing that they will pay for her daughter's murder.

I am always looking to add diversity to my reading rotation, so when I saw Penance, by Kanae Minato, and realized I had never heard of this author before, I decided to add this novel (translated from its original Japanese
Jul 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2017
4 stars--I really liked it. (Warning for sexual violence.)

This is similar to the other Minato book I read, Confessions. They both have multiple narrators and similar themes (guilt, crime, punishment). However, they're different treatments of the same theme, and though I liked both, I think I liked this one better.

I felt like we got a good glimpse of each character, and I found their stories fascinating. The book overall was creepy and fast-paced, and I'm glad I read it.
Apr 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
4.5 stars - Five girls went out, only four came home. Emily’s mother, Asako, states that if the murderer is not caught before the statute of limitations on the murder is up, each girl will have to perform an act of penance that she approves of, otherwise she will have her revenge! Each girl has a viewpoint, and I’m going to tell you no more about what happens because it’s so much better to experience this book with no hints at what’s to come.

I said it about Confessions, and I’m saying it again a
Viv JM
"Penance" begins with the murder of schoolgirl Emily on a day when she was out playing with four of her friends. The book then follows each of these friends, showing how the murder impacts their later lives, ending with a perspective from Emily's mother.

I found this an entertaining and gripping thriller. It did show the dark side of human nature and of small town life but I never found it especially scary or disturbing. I liked the way each of the girls was given a distinct voice, and although
Aug 15, 2020 rated it liked it
What a crazy book. I read it mainly for the thrills, and also realised it was my first book by a Japanese writer. The reveal at the end was definitely shocking, but I felt some vital questions went unanswered.
Stephanie (That's What She Read)
This was great! The last chapter was a little underwhelming and confusing, but I loved it up until that point. The best part was the character development. We got to see how each of the girls was affected by Emily's murder in a different way. This had the usual Minato twists and turns that I love!
Jamie Canaves
Japanese crime fic always seems to deliver for me. Minato has created a dark, character driven novel that unfurls from one event, the murder of a girl and her mother's threat, that changes the course of four girls lives. It's constructed in a way where you get the girls point of view from that day but also as adults looking back and where they are now, fifteen years after the murder that is still unsolved. If you're a fan of character driven dark crime fiction with a mystery this is for you.
Jerrie (redwritinghood)
May 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is a creepy and disturbing book. Four young girls deal with the aftermath of their friend's murder. There is a lot of guilt and fear that they must deal with and the girl's mother blames them for the death. Four chapters are from the perspective of each of the surviving girls 15 years later, and one is from the dead girl's mother. They are all deeply impacted by the death, and this manifests in horrific ways. A quick, compelling read.
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Kanae MINATO (湊 かなえ, born 1973) is a Japanese writer of crime fiction and thriller.

She started writing in her thirties. Her first novel Confessions (告白, Kokuhaku) became a bestseller and won the Japanese Booksellers Award. The movie Confession directed by Tetsuya Nakashima was nominated to 2011 Academy Award.

She has been described in Japan as "the queen of iyamisu"(eww mystery), a subgenre of myst

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