"Now that I was back in the real world, the dream didn't seem so sad. The sense of my mom, of her presence, kept radiating warmly through my chest, though I still didn't feel any affection for the town where I'd grown up."
~The Lake, Banana Yoshimoto
The Lake by Banana Yoshimoto was originally published in Japanese in 2005, and was translated into English by Michael Emmerich in 2011. The book is the story of a young woman, Chihiro, who moves to Tokyo after the death of her mother. She is deeply saddened by the loss, but also feels at the age of twenty-nine a sense of freedom in a new city where she's unknown and works as a muralist. At the beginning of the book, Chihiro, the protagonist, states that she has just had a dream in which her deceased mother spoke to her, enveloped in a beautiful haze. (I dreamed my own mother was in a small, white car the other night, and I hope to see her in another dream soon.) After the mention of the dream the narrator reminisces about her mother's hospital stay and romance with her father, and other events central to her mother's life. This novel made me miss my own mother, but also brought to mind her lasting presence and influence in my heart and mind.
Windows are important in this book--perhaps they represent the barrier or pathway between inner and outer life, or something of that nature--and Chihiro gazes out her window at a young man she has grown to like, who is also gazing back at her just as often. From their respective windows, they very slowly begin a sweet romance. Chihiro finds Nakajima quite beautiful (in an offbeat way). His mother is also deceased, and Chihiro knows he misses her love.
"And I could see that no one else in the world would ever be able to love him the way his mother must have loved him."Gradually, Chihiro and Nakajima fall in love and begin to spend more and more time together. When Nakajima wants to take Chihiro to the lake to meet two of his friends, Mino and Chii, who live in a tiny, tidy house, Chihiro senses that this is a very emotional event for Nakajima, which may help her to understand him better. At the shimmering lake, Chihiro is captivated by Nakajima's unusual friends; she understands how special they are, and greatly appreciates the wonderful tea Mino brews for her, a simple yet great pleasure.
~The Lake, Banana Yoshimoto
Unpretentiously written in plain language, this reflective book is about our relationships with the important people in our lives--parents, significant others, friends, ourselves. The author's characters are quirky and reflective and likable. Banana Yoshimoto once again demonstrates a beautiful simplicity of expression, even of the most profound subjects: death, love, and friendship.
Good news! Melville House Publishing generously gave me an extra copy of The Lake to offer as a giveaway. Because I have readers around the world, this giveaway is international.
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Enter by 5PM PDT on Monday, August 1. One winner will be randomly selected and announced on Tuesday, August 2.
This is my first review for the Japanese Literature Challenge 5, created and hosted by Dolce Bellezza. Special thanks to Nathan from Melville House Publishing for sending me these books.