Hardboiled and Hard Luck

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Overview

A collection of two novellas, Hardboiled & Hard Luck concerns two young women making sense of the past. In "Hardboiled," the narrator is hiking in the mountains, reminiscing about an old lover-the only lesbian relationship the narrator ever had-who is now dead. In a dream, she is visited by her ex-lover, who berates her for forgetting the anniversary of her death. Later that night, a woman knocks on her hotel room door, saying that she was locked out of her room by her married lover. The woman turns out to be...
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Overview

A collection of two novellas, Hardboiled & Hard Luck concerns two young women making sense of the past. In "Hardboiled," the narrator is hiking in the mountains, reminiscing about an old lover-the only lesbian relationship the narrator ever had-who is now dead. In a dream, she is visited by her ex-lover, who berates her for forgetting the anniversary of her death. Later that night, a woman knocks on her hotel room door, saying that she was locked out of her room by her married lover. The woman turns out to be the ghost of a woman who killed herself in the hotel. The narrator dreams again of her old lover, with a sense of closure.

In "Hard Luck" a woman tells the story of her sister, who has been in a coma for a long time.

Although her fiancé broke the engagement, his older brother Sakai kept coming to the hospital to visit. There is a touching scene where the sister appears to respond when the narrator and Sakai peel tangerines, which the sister loved. The narrator is now in graduate school, studying Italian literature, preparing to go to Italy. She is drawn to Sakai, and it turns out that the feelings are mutual. The narrator goes to her sister's old company to get her things. Everyone is crying. The narrator talks with her father. Her sister dies and is cremated. The ex-fiance comes to the funeral, and there is a tragic bittersweet reconciliation between the two families. The narrator has a final conversation with Sakai in which it seems he may come to Italy.

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Editorial Reviews

Andrew Ervin
Despite the somber nature of the subject matter, these are not depressing stories; Yoshimoto manages to find hope amid her characters' sadness. Taken together, these two novellas form a sparkling book.
— The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
Like twins whose paths diverge dramatically, these two gentle stories share little beyond the mesmerizing voice of their creator. The surreal subject matter and dreamy narration of "Hardboiled" make it read rather like a bedtime story gone awry. When the young female narrator realizes that it's the anniversary of her lover's death, several curious events suddenly make sense: a stone from a creepy shrine that finds its way into her pocket; a fire at an udon shop where she'd just been eating; and a nighttime visitation by the ghost of a woman who committed suicide. "Harboiled" drags a bit, but "Hard Luck" is a pleasure, even if it's almost as downbeat as its predecessor. This time, a young female narrator is standing watch over her older sister, Kuni, whose brain is slowly dying after a cerebral hemorrhage. As their parents gradually lose hope for Kuni's recovery, the narrator makes her own peace by forging a bond with her sister's fianc 's brother. In this gemlike story, Yoshimoto (Goodbye Tsugumi) takes a subtle, graceful look at the relationship between the sisters and the fault lines in this grieving family, elevating her little book from fine to downright moving. Agent, Jennifer Lyons. (July) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Originally published in her native Japan in 1999, this latest offering from Yoshimoto (Goodbye Tsugumi) is made up of two novellas, each narrated in the first person by the author's trademark strong female protagonists. In the first, "Hardboiled," a young woman travels alone on foot on the anniversary of her ex-lover's death, heading toward a town demarcated on her map. Upon reaching her destination, she checks into a cheap hotel, where she has encounters with the hotel's resident ghost and visions of her deceased female lover, Chizuru, haunt her dreams. In "Hard Luck," the young narrator is forced to deal with the impending death of her recently engaged sister, Kuni, now lying in a hospital bed after suffering a cerebral hemorrhage. As the story develops, the protagonist finds herself attracted to Sakai, the older brother of Kuni's fianc and her sister's only visitor outside of their immediate family. Like Yoshimoto's previous work, these stories, though simply told, contain complex overtones and are eerily thought-provoking. Followers of her writing will not be disappointed as they should find much to ponder here. Recommended for larger public and academic libraries.-Shirley N. Quan, Orange Cty. P.L., Santa Ana, CA Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
From best-selling Yoshimoto (Goodbye Tsugumi, 2002, etc.), two tales of young women grappling with death. While hiking on a mountain road, the narrator of "Hardboiled" encounters a mysterious shrine with a circle of black, egg-sized stones and is "overcome by an extremely unpleasant sensation." Ever since her affair with Chizuru, a woman who "could see things other people couldn't," she too has been able to sense when a place holds bad memories. At her hotel room in a nearby town, she's plagued by a dream visit from the angry Chizuru, who died in a fire not long after the narrator left her, and then by a knock on the door from a woman locked out of her room. The black stones keep turning up in odd places, and the hotel guest turns out to be a ghost, but these unsettling developments actually help the narrator come to terms with her guilt about Chizuru. "Hard Luck" opens with another unnamed narrator visiting the hospital where her sister lies in a coma. Kuni "suffered a cerebral hemorrhage after staying up several nights in a row preparing a manual for the person who was going to take over her job when she quit to get married"-which is as close to social commentary as Yoshimoto ever gets. Instead, the grieving sister thinks about the "sacred time" Kuni's approaching death offers to her family: "time set aside for us survivors to think about issues we didn't usually consider." Fans will recognize the author's trademark blend of traditional Japanese philosophical concerns and plain contemporary prose in both stories, and her descriptions of the natural world are as lovely as ever. These short narratives, however, seem a little too short. Always a spare writer, Yoshimoto makes every wordcount, but a few more words might have given "Hardboiled" and "Hard Luck" the fuller resonance of her delightful novels. A little skimpy, though warmed by the simple expressions of human emotion that make this author's work special.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780802142627
  • Publisher: Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
  • Publication date: 9/28/2006
  • Edition description: First Trade Paper Edition
  • Pages: 149
  • Sales rank: 785,612
  • Lexile: 840L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.00 (w) x 7.20 (h) x 0.50 (d)

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