Review – Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto

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“I got dressed to begin another day.  Over and over, we begin again.”
– pg. 103

I wanted to write about this one while I still felt the heaviness.  I knew what this book was about – loss.  But somehow, the quotes on the back describing Yoshimoto’s “Offbeat tales” and “wit” I was expecting something light.  I’m not sure if that impacted what I thought or how strongly I could relate to this story.  I try really hard to write reviews without spoilers, but there is one in the next paragraph, so skip it if you don’t want to know!  The rest of the review should be clean.

The novella Kitchen is really two short stories, “Kitchen” and “Moonlight Shadow.”  Both follow young women after facing the greatest loss of their young life.  In “Kitchen,” Mikage is taken in by an acquaintance Yuichi and his mother Eriko after the death of Mikage’s grandmother, her only relative.  Only we find out that Eriko, the most beautiful woman Mikage (or most people) have ever seen, is actually a man and is actually Yuichi’s father.  As readers, we understand the world as Mikage does, that the world is not something to be understood, that there are men who are better off as women, that people will never understand everything we do and we will never understand everthing they do, that eventually (and often suddenly) people die.  Both Mikage and Yuichi are dealing with a huge loss and together they find a way to heal.

It was a touching, beautiful story.  Mikage, after losing her entire family, finds refuge in Yuichi and Eriko.  Her story is, ultimately, a happy one.  She finds not only her dream job, but a companion who understands wholly what she is going through.  Now that I’m sitting here, I’m wondering what I thought the “message” was (though I hate to use that term).  I think maybe at the heart of this story is understanding and accepting, love and loss.  Those four things are permanently intertwined in the story, and in real life.  Perhaps realizing that fact is what is really essential.

At first, after reading “Kitchen,” I was worried that I was going to feel like “Moonlight Shadow” was just a tacked on story that couldn’t move me nearly as much as “Kitchen” did.  But after finishing the story, “Moonlight Shadow” ended up bringing me to tears, and recreating that deep sensation of loss that I think Yoshimoto wanted to create.  After the death of her boyfriend Hitoshi, Satsuki takes up jogging.  Hiiragi, Hitoshi’s younger brother, not only lost Hitoshi, but also his girlfriend Yumiko and he has taken up wearing Yumiko’s school uniform – including her skirt.  After an evening of nightmares about her lost lover, Satsuki meets Urara on a bridge while jogging.  The mysterious figure of Urara eventually intrigues Satsuki to the point where she wants to find her, but Urara finds her first, telling her that they have to meet, and soon.  While “Moonlight Shadow” was a bit more fantastical than “Kitchen,” the urge to do something, anything, to soak up our grief really hit home for me.  That was what was really at the heart of this little story, the fact that we will do everything we can to avoid the grief.

Perhaps this story speaks to me so much because over the summer, I was in a similar place as Mikage and Satsuki.  I was grieving like I never had before, and I found myself doing strange things.  I would walk to the beach, in the dresses I had worn to the hospital, and curl up in the sand.  My hair, my clothes, my skin were covered in sand, but it was better than being covered in grief.  I understood the place all of these characters were in.  In many ways, grief and loss are the same, no matter what country you’re from, no matter who you are, how old, gender.  There are different ways of mourning and different traditions, but in the end, grief is grief .

98% – Read it now.

Also reviewed by:

Eva – A Striped Armchair

BookGirl

Bibliofile

Lesley at Lesley’s Book Nook

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9 thoughts on “Review – Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto

  1. I just finished reading this one too! The writing was very unique and detailed. I was moved to tears at some parts. Have you read any of her other work aside from Moonlight Shadow?

  2. I loved this book too. The emotions are so intense, and as you say it doesn’t matter that they are from a different country it hurts the same. I love all of her books – they are so simple, but so powerful. Great review!

  3. I read this book for a book club, and at first we all had trouble talking about it just because the emotions from it are so hard to articulate and so deeply personal. You did a great job reviewing this!

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