Where the Wild Ladies Are, Aoko Matsuda
In this delightfully uncanny collection of feminist retellings of traditional Japanese folktales (The New York Times Book Review), humans live side by side with spirits who provide a variety of useful services--from truth-telling to babysitting, from protecting castles to fighting crime.
A busybody aunt who disapproves of hair removal; a pair of door-to-door saleswomen hawking portable lanterns; a cheerful lover who visits every night to take a luxurious bath; a silent house-caller who babysits and cleans while a single mother is out working. Where the Wild Ladies Are is populated by these and many other spirited women--who also happen to be ghosts. This is a realm in which jealousy, stubbornness, and other excessive "feminine" passions are not to be feared or suppressed, but rather cultivated; and, chances are, a man named Mr. Tei will notice your talents and recruit you, dead or alive (preferably dead), to join his mysterious company.
With Where the Wild Ladies Are, Aoko Matsuda takes the rich, millenia-old tradition of Japanese folktales--shapeshifting wives and foxes, magical trees and wells--and wholly reinvents them, presenting a world in which humans are consoled, guided, challenged, and transformed by the only sometimes visible forces that surround them.
0.9" H x 8.2" L x 5.5" W, 288 pages, paperback