Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Inheritance From Mother: A Novel by Minae Mizumura

(Thank you to Other Press for providing me with a copy of this book!)
about book:(OUT TODAY!!)

Award-winning novelist Minae Mizumura demystifies the notion of the selfless Japanese mother and the adult daughter who’s honor-bound to care for her.

Mitsuki Katsura, a Japanese woman in her mid-fifties, is a French language instructor at a private university in Tokyo. Her husband, whom she met in Paris, where he ardently wooed her, is a professor at a different private university. He is having an affair with a much younger woman.

In addition to her husband’s infidelity, Mitsuki must deal with her ailing eighty-something mother, a demanding, self-absorbed woman who is nothing like the idealized image of the patient, self-sacrificing Japanese matriarch. Mitsuki finds herself guiltily dreaming of the day when her mother will finally pass on. Though doing everything she can to ensure her mother’s happiness, she grows weary of the responsibility of being a doting daughter and worries she is sacrificing her chance to find fulfillment in her middle age.

The Inheritance from Mother not only offers insight into a complex and paradoxical culture, but is also a profound work about mothers and daughters, marriage, old age, and the resilient spirit of women.

my thoughts:

Minae Mizumura's stories are the cat's meow! They are seriously becoming my new favorite books.  I just LOVED A True Novel which is described as a "retelling" of Wuthering Heights (a book that I also happen to LOVE).  Her writing is simply excellent.  Its intelligent, creative, and unputdownable.  So, of course I could not wait for her next book to come out.  I just knew that I would be in for quite a treat.  Luckily, I was able to get an early copy from my favorite publishing house - Other Press (thank you!!). 

I grabbed my copy of Inheritance From Mother and a huge cuppa, then I settled down for what I knew would be a truly great story.  I read late into the night and early morning, savoring every word and enjoying every scene.  I could not stop reading.  I read and read until I turned the very last page.  And then I couldn't stop thinking about what I had just read.  It was, simply put, literature at it finest.  I kept thinking that this is a book that reminds people why they love to read - seriously, it is that kind of book and I LOVED it.

So, what's to love:

1.  The story is actually not new.  Mizumura wrote Inheritance From Mother in serialized form for the popular newspaper, Yomiuri Shimbun, in Japan around 2010-2011.  And it was a HUGE HIT! How cool is that?!  I swear, I need to learn to read Japanese, so that I don't have to wait for translations anymore.

2.  The book's cover.  Green is my favorite color, so I was immediately drawn to the book.  And yes, I am one of those bookworms who chooses a book by its cover - I can't help myself!

3.  The story.  A daughter's handling of her aging, invalid mother; whilst figuring out how to deal with her husband's recent infidelity.  The book opens with the death of Mitsuki's mother, Noriko.  Mitsuki and her sister, Natsuki, are trying to figure out how much money they will inherit now that their mother has finally passed away.  They have been waiting her death out and are finally able to breath a sigh of relief.  Sounds harsh, eh? Well, it is and it isn't.  Apparently Noriko was no walk in the park - she was difficult, overbearing and just too much to handle at times. The sisters have put their lives on hold to take care of their mother - actually, Mitsuki has done this (Natsuki is too fragile to deal with the care-giving responsibilities).  So, it is Mitsuki's story that we read about...her childhood, her family, and her life. We also learn about Noriko and come to understand why she was the way she was - sometimes mean people are created not born.  We also learn about Mitsuki's marriage and the ways in which she has dealt with her husband's dalliances before.  She's in her fifties now, so things are much different.  She must figure out how to survive on her own, if she decides to end her marriage - a thought that both terrifies her and excites her.  The second half of the story deals with the aftermath of Noriko's death.  Mitsuki goes away to recuperate from her mother's passing.  She winds up at a hotel she had gone to before with her mother.  She finds comfort in the familiarity of it.  She also winds up meeting some pretty interesting folks while she's staying there, which make for some entertaining encounters.  And once she's finally able to be away from everything, she is finally able to come to grips with planning out her future.  I absolutely loved getting to know Mitsuki and her story - it was truly an interesting and unforgettable experience. 

4.  The writing. Mizumura is a talent.  Her writing is top notch and clearly demonstrates her storytelling prowess.  The way she writes about Japan and Japanese culture is truly fascinating - you can't help but feel as if you are in Japan, breathing in the air, tasting the food, wandering around the streets, and simply taking it all in.  I just loved it!  You find yourself immersed in this rich culture that is steeped in tradition and history.  Oh, and the characters are terrific - they are flawed, realistic, and relatable.  Mizumura's writing truly captures their struggles and brings such depth to their story.  She is able to express the frustration, difficulties, and realities of what it is to grow old, take care of your elderly parents, and worry about your future - real life topics that concern us all - with such honesty and realism.  Her writing is just excellent!

There is so much more I could write about this amazing book, but I won't.  You need to experience it for your self, because Minae Mizumura is a writing force to be a reckoned with.  Her stories are MUST-READS!  They are Japanese Literature at its best!  I am serious.  She is now in my top three of my favorite Japanese authors (Haruki Murakami and Yoko Ogawa are the other two).  Definitely check out Inheritance From Mother and A True Novel - you will LOVE them both!

Thank you to Other Press for providing me with a copy of this book!


Ti said...

When you describe a book like you did here then I just automatically add it to my must-read list. I mean, how can I not?

Lark said...

I've never read Mizumura before but her books sound super good. Especially if her writing is up there with Murakami's. :)

A Bookish Way of Life said...

Ti, you are going to LOVE her writing. I think you would really enjoy this book, but especially A True Novel.

Lark, you need to read her work - so good!!!