Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto: A Book Review

kitchenI bet my boots whoever has lost loved ones can relate to this. It has two stories ,but they have the same theme- struggling with loneliness.

The first story is KITCHEN. Mikage Sakurai is a Japanese woman who has lost her parents and closest grandmother consecutively. Eventually, she will become close with her grandmother’s friend, Yuichi, along with her transgender mother, Eriko. However, the sudden murderous death of Eriko will make a big difference to the lives between Mikage and Saturai. Meanwhile, Mikage will take to cooking as she is emotionally attached to a kitchen.

The second story is MOONLIGHT SHADOW. It  centers around the three characters: Satsuki, Hiiragi, and Urura. They will cross the same ways , for they are in the same boat. All of them have lost their loved ones. Sasuki’s boyfirend , Hitoshi, died in the accident , and will eventually be friendly with his late boyfriend’s brother, Hiiragi whose girlfriend also died in the same crash. Likewise, Sasuki will meet the mysterious woman, Urura at a bridge at walking night, who has lost someone, and will introduce the mystical experience of The Weaver Festival Phenomenon.

If you analyze the story, the theme has something to do with the effects of losing someone loved. Mikage seems to have empty feelings. She is relatively lonely. She has lost four people to whom she has almost attached. On the other hand, Satsuki, along with Hiiragi and Urura, has to get over the grief they have collected.

To take it out, the characters have different defense mechanism. Mikage wants to compensate her burdensome feeling to cooking. She even wants to escape from another emotional attachment to Yuichi. She seems to be tired and sick of losing the people she has loved repeatedly. At the end, it is not clear if she has to give up on Yuichi. In the Moonlight Shadow, the characters turn to the therapeutically mystical experience The Weaver Festival brings about.

To dig it deeper in the context of philosophy, reading it deals with “existentialism”. Life is empty if we do not have fill of personal choices.

Oh, Banana Yoshimoto’s finesse is fantastic. I was boggled in the middle and at the end of the story. I did not know that Kitchen and Moonlight shadow have different stories. She did manipulate my attachment to the characters with the same feelings. So, after finishing it right off the bat, I reviewed the other parts to connect as well as to make sure of what the relationship among the characters are . That’s why I really liked it. I want to read it again. Although I could feel the same unavoidable feelings passing through the pages of loneliness, I would not give a fiddle’s fart about them. Mainly because I understand how it feels to bereaved, to be lonely and to finds ways of struggling with grief. It’s another subjective epiphany!

Relatively speaking, the light flow of the story bears little resemblance to PLEASE LOOK AFTER MOM by Kyung-sook Shin ( 3 stars). They have just different styles but both writers have hit the same target- to punch in your chest.

I want to eat another Banana stories. Encore! ^^

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