Posted by: Sally Ingraham | October 19, 2014

The Girl From the Well

by Rin Chupeco

Ay, yi yi…Japanese ghosts…! I don’t often wander where they haunt, being fully aware of the fact that they do it with extra doom. I don’t want to be scared to death – and that’s what they do best! I did tremble my way through Rin Chupeco’s book, however, which stars Okiku – a terrifying female ghost who has been fighting the frightening fight since who knows how long (but at least since 1741).

In Chupeco’s tale, Okiku has traveled far from her well at Himeji Castle, and has spent the centuries bringing vengeful, horrible deaths to the killers of children, drawing inspiration from her own murder. Her actions free the souls of the dead children, but her own soul is trapped on earth. She eventually meets Tark, a teenage boy who is possessed by his own personal ghost, and her curiosity and loneliness draws her into his life. His cousin Callie is his other champion, and she and the ghost girl form a tentative partnership to save Tark.

This book has some pretty significant strengths and weaknesses. The story is interesting, but Okiku is the only really vibrant character. All of her bits are wonderfully chilling, and the visuals Chupeco conjures up are shiver-inducing. As I’ve mentioned before, I can stomach horror in books better than movies, and I’ll readily admit that if this book had been in film-form I would have been watching it from the cracks between my fingers… Spooky visuals galore.

Callie and Tark are less fleshed-out characters (despite being alive), and the dialog is rather stiff. There are a lot of interesting cultural details, and when our heroes leave the US and go questing in Japan there are fun countrysides and castles to explore. The story is narrated by Okiku, which works pretty well since she can pull off both first-person and third, drifting about following the other characters. It’s a bit of a stretch at times, especially when Callie dreams or when Okiku is somehow able to listen in on Callie’s thoughts, but hey – she’s a powerful spirit, in possession of all kinds of special talents!

I found The Girl From the Well via Library Hungry’s review during #Diversiverse, and knew I’d be reading it for R.I.P. IX. I liked it overall and it’s definitely a good Halloween read. I’m interested in digging into the folklore behind Okiku’s legend more, and maybe tracking down some other Japanese ghost stories (in book form – I won’t be watching The Ring anytime soon, or reading Koji Suzuki’s book for that matter…not this year anyway!)

Any recommendations along these lines?




  1. Hmmm, what is it about Japanese horror stories that makes them so terrifying? Movies too.

  2. “…they do it with extra doom.”

    Ain’t that the truth! The Ring still leaves me very uneasy, though the book is much more manageable. Suzuki’s collection Dark Water is also quite good and, since it’s short stories, the chills are more bite-sized.

    • I’ll have to check out Dark Water. Bit-sized chills would go well with my cup of tea! 🙂

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