I finished Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto quite some time ago, but for some reason haven't felt compelled to post about it. It was my second read for the JLC4 (Japanese Literature Challenge 4 hosted by Bellezza) and one that I am glad I finally read. However, its not exactly a book that I can truly be effusive about. Don't get me wrong, its very well written, quite interesting and orginal, but there is just something slightly off kilter about it that makes me feel rather disconnected from it for some reason. So, I'll be making this rather brief.
Comprised of two short stories (Kitchen and Moonlight Shadow), Kitchen by Yoshimoto is a quirky read that deals with loss, friendship, love, mother-child relationships, and so much more in such a short space that you can't help but be impressed by Yoshimoto's talent of the written word. The characters are interesting and easily relatable, but at the same time there is something a bit off putting about them, which makes you feel as if you never truly get to know them. As for the stories themselves, well, their titles are rather revealing as to the nature of each plotline.
In Kitchen we have Mikage who has just lost her grandmother and has been sleeping in the kitchen of their apartment. She befriends a boy named Yuichi and his mother Eriko and soon finds herself living with them - sleeping on their gigantic sofa facing their kitchen. The kitchen is the only place where Mikage feels at peace. They separate for a bit, but after Eriko dies, Yuichi eventually gets ahold of Mikage and reconnects with her and soon their friendship deepens into a partnership that involves, love, insecurities, and hope - basically everything involved in a romantic relationship.
As for the next story, Moonlight Shadow, we have the loss of a brother and lover. Unable to move forward after the deaths of Hitoshi and Yumiko, Satsuki and Hiiragi must come to grips with their lives and the ways in which they are dealing with their joint and separate losses. Under the moonlight shadow, both characters are able to have one last encounter with their respective loved ones and are finally able to let go of a past that is both memorable and heartbreaking.
As I've already mentioned, I don't really have much to say about either story, except that even now, weeks after reading this book, I am still left with a sense of longing for more. Ending each story as quickly as she created each character and their tales of loss, Yoshimoto has left me in awe of her ability to touch upon a variety of issues within a few sentences and also her penchant for evoking emotional connections that border on sadness, despair, hope and love within such a short time frame. She leaves her readers wondering about each character and what, if anything they have gained from these pages of words, words, words. And let me just say, that though I felt a disconnection with the characters, at times I did feel an emotional pull toward them and as for what I gained from each story, well that is still to be determined. What I do know, is that Yoshimoto is a powerful writer who has written a great book of short stories that leaves a lasting impression on whoever reads it.