Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto was recommended by my blogger friend Dar, after I read another Japanese book recently: The Wind Up Bird Chronicle
The book is written with two stories – the longer ‘Kitchen’ and then ‘Moonlight shadow’. The stories are similar in themes and feeling, but don’t share characters. The themes of death and grieving are pervasive, but it’s interspersed with healing and growth.
Kitchen focuses on a university aged girl, Mikage, becoming an orphan, after her grandmother passes away. (The story’s name of the story comes from Mikage’s peace and love of kitchens – spending the first days of grieving sleeping by the refrigerator) Another family takes her in, a transvestite ‘entertainer’ Eriko and his/her son Yuichi. As the story unfolds, Eriko dies in a perverse attack at work, and Yuichi starts to experience the same grief as Mikage had when she’d been living with them.
The second episode is about a young woman, whose name escapes me (like most characters’ and I can’t find now!). She’s suffereing the grief after her boyfriend, Hirage, dies in a freak accident. In the accident, Hirage’s brother girlfriend also dies. Both the main character, and Hirage’s brother continue to see one another, and explore their grief in differeing ways – either running or cross dressing.
It’s a short book, and relatively easy ready, with some challenging themes. It was published in 1988 (I would have been 3!), but I wonder where the world was with concepts like transexuality and cross dressing that this book touched on?