Judy's Reviews > Kitchen

Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto
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Nov 26, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: female-author, my-2012-books, 1001-list
Recommended to Judy by: won in a bookcrossers fundraiser auction
Recommended for: anyone who enjoys a story with some existential thought and not a riveting plot

Lovely and lyrical prose -- I've not read any book quite like this one. Ms. Yoshimoto's unique voice comes through clearly in this sweet, sad story about loss of loved ones. This book was published in the Japanese in 1988 but only became available in English several years later. It is considered to be an excellent example of modern Japanese literature. With her first work, "Kitchen" Yoshimoto won the 6th Kaien Newcomer Writers Prize in November, 1987 and then the 16th Izumi Kyoka Literary Prize in January, 1988.

The story itself involves a young adult woman, Mikage, who lives with her grandparents after her parents die. Eventually she loses her grandfather and finally her grandmother. She feels very alone, as if everyone she had ever loved has left her. She is invited to live for a time in the home of two people she hardly knows, but it turns out to be a wonderful and rejuvenating experience for her. Another great loss occurs, which is almost unbearable after her previous losses; much of the story gives her inner thoughts on surviving the tragedies and finding ways to move forward.

I enjoyed the "voice" of Ms. Yoshimoto -- the story feels true to her own beliefs and sensibilities. She has said in interviews that she is drawn to writing about death, that "Death attracts me the most as a big motif for a writer to investigate for life." She accomplishes it in her own practical style and unpretentious prose. Deceptively simple, but with layers of richness. Highly recommended!

There is a second shorter story in this volume "Moonlight Shadow". It is not as deep because of the length, but it also deals with death, loss, and renewal, and again with the loss occurring to a fairly young adult who must deal with it as their own maturity level allows.

I liked this excerpt from a Q&A interview done with the author:
Q. Many depressive things are happening today. How do you think we should live at this time?
A. The only thing that we should have in mind is not to use our time to fear. And we should prepare some specific countermeasures to some extent. There is nobody who has no fear about the future. Thus we should do what we can do now, instead of just worrying about the future in vain. That's what I truly think. One other thing we should do is to look for some friends with similar sensitivity.

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