Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto

Kitchen, Banana Yoshimoto’s first novel, encompasses the tumult of familial relationships and the immense ability of a home to comfort its inhabitants. This is a story that I first read in Japanese and only later in English, it is a story that I have turned to in sorrow as well as in jubilation, it is a story predominantly characterized by quietness, and  it is a story of defining oneself against a backdrop of loss and loneliness.

The brevity and lyricism of this novel, in both form and scope, echo the passing of grief. The opening pages introduce the narrator,Mikage, in a state of mind somewhere between waking and sleeping; she is quietly mourning the death of her grandmother and sleeping in the kitchen, next to the refrigerator, to ward of the loneliness creeping into the house. Even when Mikage is befriended and taken in by Yuichi and Eriko, she finds herself seeking comfort in kitchens, “the place [she] likes best in this world.”

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