Wednesday, March 31, 2010


Banana Yoshimoto

Ok, I admit it - I bought this book simply because the author's name is Banana. Seriously, who could pass that up?

The volume is a novella and a short story sharing similar themes of identity, loss, and coping with life. Kitchen, the novella, follows a young girl as she deals with bereavement and is taken in by a kind young man and his transgendered parent. Refreshingly, the story grinds no axes, focusing instead on each character as a person and their means of finding comfort and focus after family dies.

For our main character, that comfort is found in her surrogate family, and in kitchens. She loves the hum of refrigerators, the mundane ceremony of making and sharing tea, the preparation of food, the way it touches life.

The short story allows a grieving young widow final closure through a mystical once a century event.

Translated from Japanese by Megan Backus, Kitchen is a carefully written sojourn through dark times to life beyond. The style is oriental, yet accessible to the Western mind; the story flows like water over an unfamiliar landscape. Though the subject matter is heavy, the story is hopeful and manages to remain light without being shallow or sacriligious. I enjoyed it thoroughly, and will probably re-read it several times.

And I still love the author's name.

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