Banana Yoshimoto came recommended to me by a friend who said she was one of her favorite authors. I must admit, I too, am quickly becoming a fan.
Kitchen actually includes two novellas, “Kitchen” and “Moonlight Shadow”. Both tales have to do with love, loss and the tragic beauty of life. Yoshimoto’s writing is lyrical, magical and hauntingly dream-like. “Kitchen” was my favorite of the two, so that is the one I will discuss.
“Kitchen” is the story of Mikage, a young woman left all alone in the world, with no living relatives. She is soon taken in by Yuichi Tanabe and his mother (who used to be his father, yes I said that right), Eriko. With the help of Yuichi and Eriko, Mikage comes to realize that “as I grow older, much older, I will experience many things, and I will hit rock bottom again and again. Again and again I will suffer; again and again I will get back on my feet. I will not be defeated. I won’t let my spirit be destroyed.” Mikage, Yuichi, and Eriko form a family who together understand that “we’re all brothers and sisters when we’re in trouble”. However, when Eriko is murdered, it looks as though Yuichi may be lost forever. When Yuichi leaves Toyko, Mikage feels that Yuichi is in “some other world. And that place was darker than the place (she) was. It was like the bottom of the sea.” What she comes to realize is that whether or not she can reel Yuichi back in, it will be okay. Life will continue, there will be sorrow, there will be joy, there will be suffering and yes, there will be happiness.
This story had such a dreamlike quality to it. Time passes in a blur, after all, life isn’t about measuring time, but more about experiencing all the emotions that come, whether they be sorrow, heartache, grief of joy. The language was simple, but resonated with a sad beauty that makes me long to read more of Yoshimoto. I would warn readers though, this isn’t a book you read for the “story”. It is more about the truth behind the writing.