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Book Review: “The Lonesome Bodybuilder”

The Lonesome Bodybuilder: Stories

Yukiko Montoya

Paperback, 224 pages

Publication Date: November 6, 2018

Publisher: Soft Skull Press

Genre: Short Stories

The short stories in the Lonesome Bodybuilder explore life, marriage, isolation, identity and otherworldly beings in a few pages. What would be ordinary slice-of-life short stories are made intriguing through Montoya’s use of whimsy and the absurd. The woman in the dressing room at the boutique may not be a woman at all. Your insecure girlfriend may have ulterior motives when she asks you to drive her to the river one night. Your lazy husband may have more wrong with him than just apathy.

With the help of Asa Yoneda, the Lonesome Bodybuilder is Yukiko Montoya’s first collection to be released in English. Her writing is already immensely popular in her home country of Japan, where she owns a theatre company. Montoya’s plays and stories have won various Japanese awards, including the prominent Akutagawa Prize in 2016, which is awarded to new and noteworthy authors.

After reading through some intense books (Into Thin Air and Gone Girl) at the beginning of Christmas break, Montoya’s short, enjoyable pieces were refreshing and a welcome break from stressful reading. They are charming and a great way to unwind. Despite the innocuous beginning each story has, every tale falls quickly into the realm of the weird. I lost count of the number of times I said or thought, “That’s really weird,” while reading this book. It is an odd collection, but the characters are relatable and the storylines never failed to capture and keep my attention.

The short story is one of my favorite genres, although it has sadly fallen out of popularity in previous decades. I was excited to discover a new short story author who can produce simple stories with a much deeper meaning behind them. Montoya is able to communicate volumes about burying and recovering one’s identity in less than 20 pages, a feat I am sure many authors wish they could accomplish.

It is difficult to describe the stories in the Lonesome Bodybuilder without spoiling them, but I do recommend it. Bite-sized content without the need for a lot of brainpower feels like a guilty pleasure, but the length of literature does not determine its validity. For anyone who is a fan of short stories, interested in reading about snippets of Japanese life or looking for something not very demanding to read, Yukiko Montoya’s the Lonesome Bodybuilder is an excellent choice.

Paige Holmes is a junior journalism major from Topeka, KS. Reading is her favorite thing to do because it teaches one how to think, imagine and live. Paige believes there is no better way to learn something or be entertained than by reading a book. Her favorite genre of books is fantasy/thriller and her favorite book is ‘Opening Moves’ by Steven James.

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