The Lake

The Lake

3.7 23
by Banana Yoshimoto
     
 

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A major literary sensation is back with a quietly stunning tour de force about a young woman who falls for a cult escapee.

While The Lake shows off many of the features that have made Banana Yoshimoto famous—a cast of vivid and quirky characters, simple yet nuanced prose, a tight plot with an upbeat pace—it’s also one of the most darkly

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Overview

A major literary sensation is back with a quietly stunning tour de force about a young woman who falls for a cult escapee.

While The Lake shows off many of the features that have made Banana Yoshimoto famous—a cast of vivid and quirky characters, simple yet nuanced prose, a tight plot with an upbeat pace—it’s also one of the most darkly mysterious books she’s ever written.
   It tells the tale of a young woman who moves to Tokyo after the death of her mother, hoping to get over her grief and start a career as a graphic artist. She finds herself spending too much time staring out her window, though ... until she realizes she’s gotten used to seeing a young man across the street staring out his window, too.
   They eventually embark on a hesitant romance, until she learns that he has been the victim of some form of childhood trauma. Visiting two of his friends who live a monastic life beside a beautiful lake, she begins to piece together a series of clues that lead her to suspect his experience may have had something to do with a bizarre religious cult. . . .
   With its echoes of the infamous, real-life Aum Shinrikyo cult (the group that released poison gas in the Tokyo subway system), The Lake unfolds as the most powerful novel Banana Yoshimoto has written. And as the two young lovers overcome their troubled past to discover hope in the beautiful solitude of the lake in the country- side, it’s also one of her most moving.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Yoshimoto (Kitchen) delves into an elusive romance between an artist and a student, each of whom bears scars from unusual upbringings, in this clever, off-beat novel. The 30-year-old narrator earns a modest living as a mural painter in Tokyo, supported by her businessman father whom she sees only occasionally since the death of her mother; her parents never married, as her mother was a Mama-san of a nightclub, her father the devoted customer, and his family dead-set against the match, seeding a deep sense of shame and inadequacy in the girl. Presently, she has befriended a curious young man, Nakajima, who begins to sleep over at her place, though chastely. A student in an advanced program of genetics, he hints at terrible secrets in his childhood, which are gradually revealed after the two visit Nakajima's very strange friends in the countryside, and it's revealed that Nakajima had been kidnapped as a boy by a cult and brainwashed. Unsettling as Nakajima's story is, the narrator has grown to cherish him and must decide if their uncommon connection—not passionate, but comforting and near-maternal—will bring lasting happiness. Yoshimoto's marvelously light touch is perfectly captured by Emmerich's pristine translation. (May)
Library Journal
Balanced with deft reminders of impermanence—from vivid dreams and outdoor art to once-a-year cherry blossoms and death—Yoshimoto's latest is a love story with a higher-than-usual satisfying-sigh factor. Chihiro, an artist, and Nakajima, a graduate student in genetics, finally meet after watching and waving to each other from their respective apartment windows across a Tokyo street. They're both unconventional and seemingly untethered souls; they've both lost their beloved mothers. They meander into a sweet, simple life together, although past secrets involving a mysterious brother and sister who live by an ethereal lake threaten to create an emotional divide. VERDICT Yoshimoto aficionados who have savored any of the dozen-plus novels she's written over the last three decades since she became a near-instant pop literary phenomenon with Kitchen will recognize her signature crisp, clipped style (thanks to exacting translator Emmerich's constancy) and revel in her latest cast of quirky characters. Newbies with a penchant for Haruki Murakami's mind-bending protagonists or Yoko Tawada's sparse precision will do well to begin their so-called Bananamania with this beguiling title.—Terry Hong, Smithsonian BookDragon, Washington, DC
Kirkus Reviews

The simplicity of this elliptical novel's form and expression belies its emotional depth.

There's almost an artistic sleight of hand in the latest from Yoshimoto (Hardboiled & Hard Luck, 2005, etc.), a novel in which nothing much seems to happen yet everything changes. Its narrator is a young Japanese woman, a graphic artist and muralist, on the cusp of 30 but still a relative innocent. She finds herself at a turning point, mourning the recent death of her mother, a death that spurs the daughter to uproot herself from her hometown and pursue her career amid the depersonalized anonymity of Tokyo. She takes an apartment, which offers a view of another apartment where a young man her age lives. "I had a habit of standing at my window, looking out, and so did Nakajima, so we noticed each other, and before long we started exchanging nods," she explains in the matter-of-fact prose that marks the narrative style. Nods lead to more expansive forms of voiceless communication, which leads the two to meet, which leads to love. Or something. "It was so gorgeous it almost felt like sadness," she writes of her feeling for the man she discovers is a haunted, frail medical student. "Like the feeling you get when you realize that, in the grand scheme of things, your time here on this earth really isn't that long after all." As the two bond over their dead mothers, she intuits that there are levels to his life and history that she can barely fathom. She gets a glimpse deeper into his soul when they make a pilgrimage to the lake of the title, to visit friends of his, a very mysterious brother and sister, whom she later suspects might not exist at all. The narrator and her lover bond in a way that isn't necessarily sexual and not exactly spiritual, but more "as if we were clinging to each other, he and I, at the edge of a cliff."

At one point the narrator feels like she is "inhabiting someone else's dream," which is the sort of effect the reader might experience as well.

From the Publisher
Praise for The Lake

"[The Lake] attests to the power of emotional intimacy to help even the most 'ridiculously fragile people' overcome trauma and grief."
Hirsh Sawhney, The New York Times Book Review

"The simplicity of this elliptical novel’s form and expression belies its emotional depth...There’s almost an artistic sleight of hand in the latest from Yoshimoto, a novel in which nothing much seems to happen yet everything changes."
Kirkus Reviews, starred review 

"Yoshimoto's marvelously light touch is perfectly captured by Emmerich's pristine translation."
Publishers Weekly 

"Yoshimoto aficionados who have savored any of the dozen-plus novels she’s written over the last three decades since she became a near-instant pop literary phenomenon with Kitchen will recognize her signature crisp, clipped style (thanks to exacting translator Emmerich’s constancy) and revel in her latest cast of quirky characters. Newbies with a penchant for Haruki Murakami’s mind-bending protagonists or Yoko Tawada’s sparse precision will do well to begin their so-called Bananamania with this beguiling title."  
Library Journal

"Reading [The Lake], you realize just how conventional most love stories are."
New York Times

"Touching."
—Miami Herald

"The Lake demonstrates Yoshimoto's deepening talent, and her craft for quietly revealing an enveloping and haunting world."
Cleveland Plain Dealer

"Yoshimoto is in peak form in this mesmerizing and suspenseful drama of the perils of brainwashing, from class bias to intrusive advertising to an infamous cult. Social conventions, memories and dreams, and the creative process are all explored with exquisite insight in Yoshimoto’s beautifully mystical and hopeful novel."
—Booklist

"Yoshimoto’s simplicity — both in prose and narrative — speaks to a mastery of form....The Lake will haunt you."
—Thought Catalog 

Praise for Banana Yoshimoto

“A sure and lyrical writer . . . Yoshimoto transforms the trite into the essential.”
—The New Yorker

“Ms. Yoshimoto has an effortless ability to penetrate her characters’ hearts.” 
—Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

“Banana Yoshimoto is a master storyteller. . . . The sensuality is subtle, masked, and extraordinarily powerful. The language is deceptively simple.”
—Chicago Tribune

“There is no such thing as a stock character in Yoshimoto’s fiction. She writes utterly without pretense.”
—The Washington Post

“The disturbing, ironic, relentless clarity of her voice casts a spell. . . .”
—The Denver Post

“Her achievements are already legend.”
—The Boston Globe

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781933633770
Publisher:
Melville House Publishing
Publication date:
05/03/2011
Pages:
192
Product dimensions:
5.90(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.90(d)

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