With the publication of Kitchen, the dazzling English-language debut that is still her best-loved book, the literary world realized that Yoshimoto was a young writer of enduring talent whose work has quickly earned a place among the best of contemporary Japanese literature. Kitchen is an enchantingly original book that juxtaposes two tales about mothers, love, tragedy, and the power of the kitchen and home in the lives of a pair of free-spirited young women in contemporary Japan. Mikage, the heroine, is an orphan raised by her grandmother, who has passed away. Grieving, Mikage is taken in by her friend Yoichi and his mother (who is really his cross-dressing father) Eriko. As the three of them form an improvised family that soon weathers its own tragic losses, Yoshimoto spins a lovely, evocative tale with the kitchen and the comforts of home at its heart.
In a whimsical style that recalls the early Marguerite Duras, "Kitchen" and its companion story, "Moonlight Shadow," are elegant tales whose seeming simplicity is the ruse of a very special writer whose voice echoes in the mind and the soul.
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The place I like best in this world is the kitchen. No matter where it is, no matter what kind, if it's a kitchen, if it's a place where they make food, it's fine with me. Ideally it should be well broken in. Lots of tea towels, dry and immaculate. White tile catching the light (ting! ting!).
I love even incredibly dirty kitchens to distraction — vegetable droppings all over the floor, so dirty your slippers turn black on the bottom. Strangely, it's better if this kind of kitchen is large. I lean up against the silver door of a towering, giant refrigerator stocked with enough food to get through a winter. When I raise my eyes from the oil-spattered gas burner and the rusty kitchen knife, outside the window stars are glittering, lonely.
Now only the kitchen and I are left. It's just a little nicer than being all alone.
When I'm dead worn out, in a reverie, I often think that when it comes time to die, I want to breathe my last in a kitchen. Whether it's cold and I'm all alone, or somebody's there and it's warm, I'll stare death fearlessly in the eye. If it's a kitchen, I'll think, "How good."
Before the Tanabe family took me in, I spent every night in the kitchen. After my grandmother died, I couldn't sleep. One morning at dawn I trundled out of my room in search of comfort and found that the one place I could sleep was beside the refrigerator.
My parents — my name is Mikage Sakurai — both died when they were young. After that my grandparents brought me up. I was going into junior high when my grandfather died. From then on, it was just my grandmother and me.
When my grandmother died the other day, I was taken by surprise. My family had steadily decreased one by one as the years went by, but when it suddenly dawned on me that I was all alone, everything before my eyes seemed false. The fact that time continued to pass in the usual way in this apartment where I grew up, even though now I was here all alone, amazed me. It was total science fiction. The blackness of the cosmos.
Three days after the funeral I was still in a daze. Steeped in a sadness so great I could barely cry, shuffling softly in gentle drowsiness, I pulled my futon into the deathly silent, gleaming kitchen. Wrapped in a blanket, like Linus, I slept. The hum of the refrigerator kept me from thinking of my loneliness. There, the long night came on in perfect peace, and morning came.
But ... I just wanted to sleep under the stars.
I wanted to wake up in the morning light.
Aside from that, I just drifted, listless.
However! I couldn't exist like that. Reality is wonderful.
I thought of the money my grandmother had left me — just enough. The place was too big, too expensive, for one person. I had to look for another apartment. There was no way around it. I thumbed through the listings, but when I saw so many places all the same lined up like that, it made my head swim. Moving takes a lot of time and trouble. It takes energy.
I had no strength; my joints ached from sleeping in the kitchen day and night. When I realized how much effort moving would require — I'd have to pull myself together and go look at places. Move my stuff. Get a phone installed — I lay around instead, sleeping, in despair. It was then that a miracle, a godsend, came calling one afternoon. I remember it well.
Dingdong. Suddenly the doorbell rang.
It was a somewhat cloudy spring afternoon. I was intently involved in tying up old magazines with string while glancing at the apartment listings with half an eye but no interest, wondering how I was going to move. Flustered, looking like I'd just gotten out of bed, I ran out and without thinking undid the latch and opened the door. Thank god it wasn't a robber. There stood Yuichi Tanabe.
"Thank you for your help the other day," I said. He was a nice young man, a year younger than me, who had helped out a lot at the funeral. I think he'd said he went to the same university I did. I was taking time off.
"Not at all," he said. "Did you decide on a place to live yet?"
"Not even close." I smiled.
"Would you like to come in for some tea?"
"No. I'm on my way somewhere and I'm kind of in a hurry." He grinned. "I just stopped by to ask you something. I was talking to my mother, and we were thinking you ought to come to our house for a while."
"Huh?" I said.
"In any case, why don't you come over tonight around seven? Here's the directions."
"Okay ..." I said vacantly, taking the slip of paper.
"All right, then, good. Mom and I are both looking forward to your coming." His smile was so bright as he stood in my doorway that I zoomed in for a closeup on his pupils. I couldn't take my eyes off him. I think I heard a spirit call my name.
"Okay," I said. "I'll be there."
Bad as it sounds, it was like I was possessed. His attitude was so totally "cool," though, I felt I could trust him. In the black gloom before my eyes (as it always is in cases of bewitchment), I saw a straight road leading from me to him. He seemed to glow with white light. That was the effect he had on me.
"Okay, see you later," he said, smiling, and left.
Before my grandmother's funeral I had barely known him. On the day itself, when Yuichi Tanabe showed up all of a sudden, I actually wondered if he had been her lover. His hands trembled as he lit the incense; his eyes were swollen from crying. When he saw my grandmother's picture on the altar, again his tears fell like rain. My first thought when I saw that was that my love for my own grandmother was nothing compared to this boy's, whoever he was. He looked that sad.
Then, mopping his face with a handkerchief, he said, "Let me help with something." After that, he helped me a lot.
Yuichi Tanabe ... I must have been quite confused if I took that long to remember when I'd heard grandmother mention his name.
He was the boy who worked part-time at my grandmother's favorite flower shop. I remembered hearing her say, any number of times, things like, "What a nice boy they have working there. ... That Tanabe boy ... today, again ..." Grandmother loved cut flowers. Because the ones in our kitchen were not allowed to wilt, she'd go to the flower shop a couple of times a week. When I thought of that, I remembered him walking behind my grandmother, a large potted plant in his arms.
He was a long-limbed young man with pretty features. I didn't know anything more about him, but I might have seen him hard at work in the flower shop. Even after I got to know him a little I still had an impression of aloofness. No matter how nice his manner and expression, he seemed like a loner. I barely knew him, really.
It was raining that hazy spring night. A gentle, warm rain enveloped the neighborhood as I walked with directions in hand.
My apartment building and the one where the Tanabes lived were separated by Chuo Park. As I crossed through, I was inundated with the green smell of the night. I walked, sloshing down the shiny wet path that glittered with the colors of the rainbow.
To be frank, I was only going because they'd asked me. I didn't think about it beyond that. I looked up at the towering apartment building and thought, their apartment on the tenth floor is so high, the view must be beautiful at night. ...
Getting off the elevator, I was alarmed by the sound of my own footsteps in the hall. I rang the bell, and abruptly, Yuichi opened the door. "Come in."
"Thanks." I stepped inside. The room was truly strange.
First thing, as I looked toward the kitchen, my gaze landed with a thud on the enormous sofa in the living room. Against the backdrop of the large kitchen with its shelves of pots and pans — no table, no carpet, just "it." Covered in beige fabric, it looked like something out of a commercial. An entire family could watch TV on it. A dog too big to keep in Japan could stretch out across it — sideways. It was really a marvelous sofa.
In front of the large window leading onto the terrace was a jungle of plants growing in bowls, planters, and all kinds of pots. Looking around, I saw that the whole house was filled with flowers; there were vases full of spring blooms everywhere.
"My mother says she'll get away from work soon. Take a look around if you'd like. Should I give you the tour? Or pick a room, then I'll know what kind of person you are," said Yuichi, making tea.
"What kind? ..." I seated myself on the deep, comfy sofa.
"I mean, what you want to know about a house and the people who live there, their tastes. A lot of people would say you learn a lot from the toilet," he said, smiling, unconcerned. He had a very relaxed way of talking.
"The kitchen," I said.
"Well, here it is. Look at whatever you want."
While he made tea, I explored the kitchen. I took everything in: the good quality of the mat on the wood floor and of Yuichi's slippers; a practical minimum of well-worn kitchen things, precisely arranged. A Silverstone frying pan and a delightful German-made vegetable peeler — a peeler to make even the laziest grandmother enjoy slip, slipping those skins off.
Lit by a small fluorescent lamp, all kinds of plates silently awaited their turns; glasses sparkled. It was clear that in spite of the disorder everything was of the finest quality. There were things with special uses, like ... porcelain bowls, gratin dishes, gigantic platters, two beer steins. Somehow it was all very satisfying. I even opened the small refrigerator (Yuichi said it was okay) — everything was neatly organized, nothing just "left."
I looked around, nodding and murmuring approvingly, "Mmm, mmm." It was a good kitchen. I fell in love with it at first sight.
I went back and sat on the sofa, and out came hot tea.
Usually, the first time I go to a house, face to face with people I barely know, I feel an immense loneliness. I saw myself reflected in the glass of the large terrace window while black gloom spread over the rain-hounded night panorama. I was tied by blood to no creature in this world. I could go anywhere, do anything. It was dizzying.
Suddenly, to see that the world was so large, the cosmos so black. The unbounded fascination of it, the unbounded loneliness ... For the first time, these days, I was touching it with these hands, these eyes. I've been looking at the world half-blind, I thought.
"Why did you invite me here?" I asked.
"We thought you might be having a hard time," Yuichi said, peering kindly at me. "Your grandmother was always so sweet to me, and look at this house, we have all this room. Shouldn't you be moving?"
"Yes. Although the landlord's been nice enough to give me extra time."
"So why not move in with us?" he said, as though it were the most natural thing in the world.
He struck just the right note, neither cold nor oppressively kind. It made me warm to him; my heart welled up to the point of tears. Just then, with the scratch of a key in the door, an incredibly beautiful woman came running in, all out of breath.
I was so stunned, I gaped. Though she didn't seem young, she was truly beautiful. From her outfit and dramatic makeup, which really wouldn't do for daytime, I understood that hers was night work.
Yuichi introduced me: "This is Mikage Sakurai."
"How do you do," she said in a slightly husky voice, still panting, with a smile. "I'm Yuichi's mother. My name is Eriko."
This was his mother? Dumbfounded, I couldn't take my eyes off her. Hair that rustled like silk to her shoulders; the deep sparkle of her long, narrow eyes; well-formed lips, a nose with a high, straight bridge — the whole of her gave off a marvelous light that seemed to vibrate with life force. She didn't look human. I had never seen anyone like her.
I was staring to the point of rudeness. "How do you do," I replied at last, smiling back at her.
"We're so pleased to have you here," she said to me warmly, and then, turning to Yuichi, "I'm sorry, Yuichi. I just can't get away tonight. I dashed out for a second saying that I was off to the bathroom. But I'll have plenty of time in the morning. I hope Mikage will agree to spend the night." She was in a rush and ran to the door, red dress flying.
"I'II drive you," said Yuichi.
"Sorry to put you to so much trouble," I said.
"Not at all. Who ever would have thought the club would be so busy tonight? It's me who should apologize. Well! See you in the morning!"
She ran out in her high heels, and Yuichi called back to me, "Wait here! Watch TV or something!" then ran after her, leaving me alone in a daze.
I felt certain that if you looked really closely you would see a few normal signs of age — crow's feet, less-than-perfect teeth — some part of her that looked like a real human being. Still, she was stunning. She made me want to be with her again. There was a warm light, like her afterimage, softly glowing in my heart. That must be what they mean by "charm." Like Helen Keller when she understood "water" for the first time, the word burst into reality for me, its living example before my eyes. It's no exaggeration; the encounter was that overwhelming.
Yuichi returned, jingling the car keys. "If she could only get away for ten minutes, she should have just called," he said, taking off his shoes in the entryway.
I stayed where I was on the sofa and answered "Mmm," noncommittally.
"Mikage," he said, "were you a little bit intimidated by my mother?"
"Yes," I told him frankly. "I've never seen a woman that beautiful."
"Yes. But ..." Smiling, he sat down on the floor right in front of me.
"She's had plastic surgery."
"Oh?" I said, feigning nonchalance. "I wondered why she didn't look anything like you."
"And that's not all. Guess what else — she's a man." He could barely contain his amusement.
This was too much. I just stared at him in wide-eyed silence. I expected any second he would say, "Just kidding." Those tapered fingers, those mannerisms, the way she carried herself ... I held my breath remembering that beautiful face; he, on the other hand, was enjoying this.
"Yes, but ..." My mouth hung open. "You've been saying all along, 'my mother' this, and 'my mother' that. ..."
"Yes, but. Could you call someone who looked like that 'Dad'?" he asked calmly. He has a point, I thought. An extremely good answer.
"What about the name Eriko?"
"It's actually Yuji."
It was as though there were a haze in front of my eyes. When I was finally ready to hear the story, I said, "So, who gave birth to you?" "Eriko was a man a long time ago. He married very young. The person he married was my mother."
"Wow ... I wonder what she was like." I couldn't imagine.
"I don't remember her myself. She died when I was little. I have a picture, though. Want to see it?"
"Yes." I nodded. Without getting up, he dragged his bag across the floor, then took an old photograph out of his wallet and handed it to me.
She was someone whose face told you nothing about her. Short hair, small eyes and nose. The impression was of a very odd woman of indeterminate age. When I didn't say anything, Yuichi said, "She looks strange, doesn't she?"
I smiled uncomfortably.
"As a child Eriko was taken in by her family. I don't know why. They grew up together. Even as a man he was good-looking, and apparently he was very popular with women. Why he would marry such a strange ..." he said smiling, looking at the photo. "He must have been pretty attached to my mother. So much so he turned his back on the debt of gratitude he owed his foster parents and eloped with her."
"After my real mother died, Eriko quit her job, gathered me up, and asked herself, 'What do I want to do now?' What she decided was, 'Become a woman.' She knew she'd never love anybody else. She says that before she became a woman she was very shy. Because she hates to do things halfway, she had everything 'done,' from her face to her whatever, and with the money she had left over she bought that nightclub. She raised me a woman alone, as it were." He smiled.
"What an amazing life story!"
"She's not dead yet," said Yuichi.
Whether I could trust him or whether he still had something up his sleeve ... the more I found out about these people, the more I didn't know what to expect.
But I trusted their kitchen. Even though they didn't look alike, there were certain traits they shared. Their faces shone like buddhas when they smiled. I like that, I thought.
"I'll be out of here early in the morning, so just help yourself to whatever you want."
A sleepy-looking Yuichi, his arms full of blankets, pillows, and pajamas for me, showed me how the shower worked and pointed out the towels.
Unable to think of much of anything after hearing such a (fantastic!) life story, I had watched a video with Yuichi. We had chatted about things like the flower shop and my grandmother, and time passed quickly. Now it was one in the morning. That sofa was delectable. It was so big, so soft, so deep, I felt that once I surrendered to it I'd never get up again.
"Your mother," I said after a while. "I bet the first time she sat on this sofa in the furniture store, she just had to have it and bought it right then and there."
"You got it," he said. "As soon as she gets an idea in her head she does it, you know? I just stand back in amazement at her way of making things happen."(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Kitchen"
Copyright © 1988 Banana Yoshimoto.
Excerpted by permission of Grove Atlantic, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
It's hard to understand why this was a best seller in Japan. It's a slight love story. I assume its popularity had to to with the fact that the main character has lost her entire family, and then loses a kind of surrogate mother (who is also a transsexual) and almost loses a boyfriend (because he is oddly emotionally disconnected). But the writing is thin. Yoshimoto continuously and almost exclusively uses the moon as an index of her character's mood. That's commensurate with a long tradition in Japan, but Yoshimoto's descriptions are simple to the point of being threadbare. The character's emotions are indexed to the moon and the weather, but the moon and weather are described so simply -- almost repetitively -- that it isn't possible to see much nuance in her inner life. And it seems there isn't much, aside from an increasing loneliness. There's a difficult issue here to do with translation: as in other contemporary Japanese fiction, there is almost no interest in detailed description; no evident experimentation with language or description; no passages where writing is what matters. The book is like a report, in minimal style, of the character's actions and feelings. This is a difficult issue because it doesn't seem to be a matter of the translation. The English is fine and colloquial, but that can only mean that the original is also written in something like a simple, if not a pallid, style. Can that be right? Is what counts as a novel so disconnected from what counts as writing?
A lovely story about relationships and the scene with the noodles is beautiful.
The third novel I've read for this spring's English class, and also my favorite so far. There are two different stories, the first with the theme of food, and both centering around the themes of death and love. I always like to read before I go to sleep, but each time I started one of these stories I stayed up late finishing it. Yoshimoto is a master of using casual and simple language to describe complex but universal human emotions. A reader will find themselves caught in emotion without warning.From the very first paragraph of the first story, even the very first sentence, the narrator Mikage speaks of her love of the kitchen. Throughout the rest of the story, she always returns to the kitchen, always relishes in its familiarity and comforts in its order. I found this story to be very easy to relate to, except for being taken in by near-strangers, as that hasn't happened to me before, but a lot of Mikage's feelings and observational comments on life, death, and love reverberated in my brain as I read them. And because I felt as if I could connect so much with what this main character said and felt, I began to interpret her feelings through my own. I think food is very important to happiness ¿ we've all had bad days where we envisioned something tasty we've been saving in the fridge, telling ourselves, ¿I'll be all right if I can just eat that when I get home.¿ The act of cooking also brings people together, whether someone is cooking for someone else or if people are cooking something together. I've always thought food is very closely connected to love. When people go on dates, they very often go out to eat food together, and after a new couple has been dating a short while, they both begin to gain weight.In the second story, "Moonlight Shadow," Satsuki mourns the death of her boyfriend Hitoshi, and meets a woman filled with vague, mysterious promises. Food also plays a healing role here, although brief. A vivid idea of pain and grief is presented again in this story. I don't know how much more I can talk about this second story without giving away anything that happens, so I'm going to leave it there.I would recommend this book to anyone experiencing grief or anyone interested in a couple of unique romance stories. Or if you're just interested in something new, check it out.
¿The place I like best in this world is the kitchen.¿I didn¿t quite get to Kitchen for the Japanese Challenge, but I¿m still glad I read it shortly afterwards. I liked the book, but I didn¿t love it.Food and kitchens play a central role int he book, but it¿s essentially about two people finding their way through the grief process. Mikage has recently lost her grandmother, whom she lived with, and her friend Yoichi and his mother Eriko take her in. Yoichi ends up losing someone close to him as well, and the bond between the two of them becomes even closer.Note: This book has been added as one of the new titles in the latest edition of the 1001 list.1988, 1993 for the English translation; 105 pp.4/5
Really quite wonderful. The subject is somewhat bleak, but the book leaves me feeling hopeful. Prose is spare but not at all spartan. Reminds me of Salinger's 9 Stories in a way - can't quite put my finger on it.
Two short stories about young women coping with grief. The first story, Kitchen, is about a student who finds herself completely alone following the death of her grandmother. She is taken in by a boy and his unusual mother, and their relationship, as well as the time she spends cooking, help her to move forward. The second story, Moonlight Shadow, is about a girl who has recently lost her first love to a traffic accident and how her relationship with the young man's brother along with an encounter with a strange woman help her move toward closure. One might think that these themes would make for gloomy reading, but the surprise is that Yoshimoto's writing is at once poetic and fresh, grounded in a zen-like appreciation for taking things as they are, and the hopeful message that embracing difficulty brings it's own rewards. Inspiring.
d. It's two stories, one more a novella and the other more a short story, each about love, loss and loyalty told in a minimalist, ethereal sort of style. Kind of like a haiku version of fiction writing. Characters were beautifully drawn, though I think the improbably Eriko with his/her zest for life charmed me the most. The snippets of Japanese life and culture were fascinating, especially in Kitchen 1, and the bits focused on food (I must admit I chuckled over the dismay at which Yuichi faced yet another tofu meal when staying in Isehara and Mikage's rescue mission, wall scaling included.) Kitchen 2 (Moon Shadow) was the more mystical story -- and is a beautiful lesson on learning to live with terrific loss.
This was a very easy read. It didn't make me think about anything or feel anything special. I did not relate to the characters, and even though there was a trans-woman in the book, I felt it to heterosexual for my likening. It's not a bad book at all, it's Japaneses lovey-dovey fiction. I'm just not the right crowd for this book.
This novel is charming rather than good, pleasant rather than profound in any way. Is in Japanese chick lit? I don't know.. I know it has reached immense popularity in the author's native Japan, and I did get the feeling that this must be what contemporary Japan is like for 20-something females. The book deals with death. Yes, quite a heavy topic for light reading, and that might be part of its problem. It would seem that the topic would automatically "deepen" the novel... I liked the first part of the book the best (the actual kitchen novella), and I felt a certain connection to Eriko (the transvestite), Yuichi (the son) and Mikage (the narrator), and I found myself cheering for the budding love between Mikage and Yuichi. However, the language and the "depth" of the book seemed superficial at best. It is saturated with clichees (the phrase "I was running around like a chicken with its head cut off" is used as an actual description). It seemed to be written in a way that a self-absorbant 20-something would talk. But does it reflect the original writing or did it get a bit lost in translation????
It´s a wonderful book. As I was reading it, I can see it in my mind as a japanese anime! Lovely and good written.
At first, this was really getting on my nerves, but after what happened to Eriko, the story seemed to gain good direction. I really enjoyed "Kitchen" from that point out, though beforehand it majorly dragged for me. "Moonlight Shadow" was also very good, though there was an element of the cliche in that one that I couldn't seem to get over. Overall, a nice read.
This is Banana Yoshimoto's first novel, and my first time reading anything by this author. The book contains two stories, Kitchen and Moonlight Shadow, both of which are rendered with precisely placed moments of great sorrow and joy, simplicity and complexity. Told in the first person, both protagonists are young Japanese women in their early 20s who have experienced death of their loved ones, and are trying to "find their way back" to lives of meaning. Beautifully illustrates the juxtoposition of deep emotions and mundane every- day actions that foster those exquisite moments of revelation that move positive change and healing just one step closer...
Banana Yoshimoto took me by surprise. Kitchen is a thin book pairing two novellas, Kitchen and Moonlight Shadow, that both deal with loss and its aftermath. At first the author's light, easygoing style tricked me into underestimating my emotional involvement with the story. Kitchen begins when Mikage loses her beloved grandmother and is taken in by the Tanabe family she barely knows. From there, Mikage's relationship with the Tanabes--a transvestite nightclub owner and his son--deepens based on shared late-night meals and three lives brushing up against each other in a small Japanese apartment. I was unprepared for the turns this 100-page novella took and how anxiously I rushed to the end, hoping to see Mikage find respite from her overwhelming sense of being alone in the world. The second novella, Moonlight Shadow, contrasted the reactions of Satsuki and Hiirage who both lost loved ones in a tragic accident. Satsuki deals with the loss of her beloved Hitoshi by eating less and less and jogging more and more. Hiirage copes with his double loss--his brother Hitoshi and his girlfriend Yumiko--by wearing Yumiko's old school uniform. Their attempts to console each other are awkward yet touching. As the novella built toward a promised surprise ending, I ached for them to find happiness as well.
Both of these stories are beautifully told, and although the translation is a bit choppy I can tell Yoshimoto is a great writer. I did have a hard time connecting to the characters. Their motives, speech, and even personalities seemed rather monotonous and indistinct. Compared to the strange events of their lives, the characters themselves were pretty uninspired. It was a fine way to spend an evening, but this probably won¿t be a book I come back to.
Kitchen contains both the novella, Kitchen and the short story, Moonlight Shadow. Both are minimalist stories of women experiencing different forms of grief and loss and the eventual ways they're able to move on from these periods. These are not sappy tales that one might find in bad movie-of-the-week films. Banana instead manages to take the ingredients found in those tales and weave together something all together different, magical and yet vaguely familiar at the same time. Perhaps it's the minimalist approach, it could be the focus on the grief with a decided lack of focus on back story or the gory details, or maybe it's how she lets go just in time - either way, these stories manage to work in a very lyrical way.
This is one of my favorite books. More than the story that the book is titled for, I love the second short story at the end of the book. "Moonlight Shadow" captures my imagination every time I read it. Yoshimoto writes about this theme of loss so often and each time she captures a new aspect of the emotions that come with loosing someone.
I wanted to like this book. At first, the writing was superb. The images were soft and crisp, like newly fallen snow swirling in a snow globe. The two novellas focused on loss and its impact on everyday living -- the heartbreaking feeling of trying to put one foot in front of the other while it feels like you are wearing heavy boots filled with rocks when climbing up a steep hill.I wanted to like this book. The characters were compelling and likable. The emotions expressed were described accurately and poignantly.I wanted to like this book, but alas, I grew weary and it felt like the newly fallen snow became gray and slushy.
This was not a bad book. The writing was a little clunky, but I think that was the translation.
A mix of two novellas if you will dealing with tales of free-spirited young women in contemporary Japan. Kitchen tales the story of a women whose family gradually passes away, leaving here increasingly along in the world. The only place she feels safe is in a kitchen. She meets a young man and her transsexual father and through them, finds a connection to herself and her future. The second half of the book is a story called ¿moonlight Shadow¿. It is the story of loss and redemption. A woman has lost her boyfriend and soul mate in an accident. She attempts to reason why and find her way emotional and physically in the world without him. The boyfriend¿s brother lost his girlfriend in the same accident and he too takes a path towards coping. They meet a strange woman who guides them deftly to a path to recovery. With most of Yoshimoto¿s work, it is constant shift between adept and witty writing and tedious, overreaching prose. Her fame comes largely from being a woman writer, dealing with somewhat serious issues. The issues are uniquely Japanese and not all that strongly oriented to a woman¿s point of view. This might be the greatest tragedy, since she has an opportunity. The length and style of her writing prevent her from concocting complicated, longer stories with more background. Has a bit of work to do, but as this was one of her early books, there is room for improvement and the foundation is there.
This is one of the few books that I can read over and over again. It's actually two short novellas but both should be read while wearing thick wool socks and sipping burning hot green tea.
I think this book is sweet. It deals with relationships...ones lost, others gained. I like these two stories as well as other books by this author, but don't see why she's such an overwhelmingly popular author. To me, there are many other Japanese writers whose writing is so much more interesting. Perhaps, it's her preoccupation with death or maybe the simplicity of the writing to which people are attracted. I was touched by the ending of the story Moonlight Shadow.
I didn't feel as strong a connection with the novella as I might have if I ever cooked or enjoyed being in a kitchen, but I really loved the story at the end, "Moonlight Shadow." Both stories deal with love and loss and moving on in a unique way.
cute and quirky