Friday, February 8, 2019
Goodbye Tsugumi by Banana Yoshimoto
Loved this book to bits! Goodbye Tsugumi is now my FAVORITE story by Yoshimoto. It just really touched my heart and got me thinking about my own family, specifically my cousins. Growing up, my aunt from Texas would send her three oldest kids to our house for the summer. And when I say house, it was a duplex that barely fitted us all in it. Yet, we all managed to squeeze in there and enjoy a summer full of pizza, walks to the park, junk food runs at the local shop, and horror movie binges. I was a kid, so it was all fun times for me. Looking back, I have so many fond memories of those summers. I think those memories ensured my love for this book - this story just gave me all the feels and I really enjoyed it.
This is the story of Maria and Tsugumi. Cousins who grew up together. Maria and her mom lived at the inn that Tsugumi's family owned on the beach. Her father was married, so Maria and her mom endured year of waiting for him to get divorced. Eventually, the three of them are able to finally live as a family unit, so they move to Tokyo to be together. Leaving behind the inn is hard for Maria who finds herself missing the beach and looking for smells of the ocean as she traipses around Tokyo. One day she receives a phone call from Tsugumi telling her that the inn is being sold. Maria is shocked. She always imagined revisiting the inn again and again. So, she decides to spend her summer at the inn - one last hurrah before its gone.
As we learn about Maria, we learn about her cousin Tsugumi. A cousin that she is quite fond of and a bit weary of. Tsugumi was born sick and the doctors told her parents that she would die young. Growing up alongside Tsugumi, Maria witnessed firsthand the constant battle with fevers and pains that her cousin endured. She also witnessed the cruel behavior that Tsugumi became known for. Being sick and knowing that death could come at any time, Tsugumi was not a nice person. She was unhappy, therefore she made everyone else unhappy. She would throw out insults, steal your favorite treat, make you cry, and remind you that she was the one dying so you had no reason to complain. She was the worst. She was also strong, smart, funny, and determined. Tsugumi lived with her illness daily and yet she would push through it to live her life as best she could. The two cousins grew close after an incident referred to as the Haunted Mailbox. From that point on, the two seemed to connect even more so than before. And now, Maria would be spending another summer at the inn with Tsugumi.
Happy to be back at the place she once called home, Maria quickly settles into life at the inn. The summer moves along nicely - walks on the beach, seafood galore, and quality time with her family. The girls meet a boy on the beach - his family is opening a huge hotel on the beach that is driving the locals crazy. Tsugumi and this boy fall in love. Life is good. Maria is happy to see her cousin so content. Things seem to be moving along swimmingly and then...DRAMA. Yep, drama comes in the form of a dog-napping, a very deep hole, and a close call with death. Maria sees Tsugumi in all her colors and gets to know her even more so during that last summer at the inn. She sees her cousin be ill and endure so much pain. She sees her cousin battle death. She sees her cousin's resilience. And, she finally learns about her cousin's take on life in the form of a letter - Tsugumi thought the end was near so she penned Maria a letter. Its magical, sad, and just lovely to read all about. I enjoyed it so much.
Yoshimoto has created a pair of cousins that I couldn't help but fall in love with. Their dynamic was such fun to read about. She's written a story that not only explores family, but also looks at love, death, and illness. And she writes about it all with such depth and authenticity. You can taste the sea air and feel the sand between your toes. You can hear the chatter between cousins as they watch their favorite TV show. You can feel Tsugumi's hand burning with fever. You can hear the yapping of the dog as he runs around in circles. And you can see the love between all of these characters as they fight, yell, apologize, and accept one another. Its truly such a treat to experience.
Goodbye Tsugumi is a quiet and emotional story that will just melt your heart. It will draw you in and keep you hooked. I would happily recommend it to everyone.