Book Review: Kitchen

Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto was recommended by my blogger friend Dar, after I read another Japanese book recently: The Wind Up Bird Chronicle

Kitchen by Banana yoshimoto

Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto

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?

Book Review: The Blade Itself

The Blade Itself by Marcus Sakey may or may not have been the book recommended by a friend on Facebook.  The small issue of the author was unknown, but I took the gamble nonetheless.

Danny, an Irish American living in Chicago, grew up on the wrong side of the tracks, with his mate Evan.  In their late teens, they commit a robbery of a pawn shop.  Danny sees a chance to slip away, after Evan turns violent and severely injures two people.  The book opens with this crime, and then fast forwards seven years.  Danny’s still with Karen, but he’s now straight and in the building trade.  Evan has been granted early release (due to prison overcrowding).  You can almost guess what’ll happen next.  Evan’s spent seven years stewing on the fact that he served time and his mate walked free.  Evan, of course, did not implicate his mate in the crime all those years ago, but now the time to settle the score…

Danny, naturally, wants nothing of his old life, now that he’s happily in love, and earning a great living in construction.  But as Evan starts to threaten Karen, there’s no alternative for Danny but to join Evan ‘one last time’.  The plot is tightly written, and carefully sets itself up for the final scene.  Every character serves a purpose to enhance the story.  I thoroughly enjoyed this easy read, and will be looking to see what other things Sakey has published.