Throwback Thursday: Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto

Hello, everybody! It’s time for another Throwback Thursday post 😉

Throwback Thursday is a weekly meme hosted by Renee at It’s Book Talk and is a way to share some of your old favorites as well as sharing books that you want to read that were published over a year ago.  This is a great way to bring some of your old favorites back to life.
If you have your own Throwback Thursday recommendation feel free to jump on board, and you’re welcome to use Renee’s pic as well. If you’d just link back to her@It’s Book Talk she’d so appreciate it!

For this week, I picked up Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto (translated by Megan Backus).

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This is one of my all-time favorites. For those of you haven’t read this amazing book, here’s Goodreads synopsis:

Banana Yoshimoto’s novels have made her a sensation in Japan and all over the world, and Kitchen, the dazzling English-language debut that is still her best-loved book, is an enchantingly original and deeply affecting book about mothers, love, tragedy, and the power of the kitchen and home in the lives of a pair of free-spirited young women in contemporary Japan. Mikage, the heroine of Kitchen, is an orphan raised by her grandmother, who has passed away. Grieving, she is taken in by her friend Yoichi and his mother (who was once his father), Eriko. As the three of them form an improvised family that soon weathers its own tragic losses, Yoshimoto spins a lovely, evocative tale that recalls early Marguerite Duras. Kitchen and its companion story, “Moonlight Shadow,” are elegant tales whose seeming simplicity is the ruse of a writer whose voice echoes in the mind and the soul.

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Like I said earlier, this is one of my favorites. This book actually has a permanent special place in my heart and I have read this more than 5 times as far as I can remember. You can read my thoughts here.

This post is going to be a bit lengthy, but I’d love to share with you why this book is so important to me.

It was in my second year in junior college when I first read this book. There was an American teacher who had been very thoughtful and supportive of me throughout my time in school, We would have weekly one-hour sessions where I had him proofread the journals that I had written in English. It was actually his suggestion that I keep journals in English to get better at English in general; he would often chided me whenever I skipped writing them more than a few days in a row.
We continued our weekly sessions up until a couple of months before my graduation and in the middle of our session on a cold wintry day, he lent this book to me, saying,

“Give it back to me when you’re through this book. Take your time. No rush.”

Being as eager as I had always been to earn his trust and confidence, I started reading this book and why, this book enthralled me. The two stories contained in the book were both on the themes of ‘death’ and ‘hope,’ and the bleak, sorrowful undertone generated by the characters’ grief and devastation were well-reflected in the delicate, stunningly beautiful writing.  As I wrote in my review, I had -and have – never read Yoshimoto’s work in its original form, I still don’t know if it was the translation magic that made this book so haunting and amazing, but I instantly fell in love with the book.

That said, I returned the book to him and didn’t get myself my own copy and the said teacher went back to the United States to finish his doctoral degree.

We lost touch.

Initially, we sent letters and postcards back and forth several times. But at sometime or other, the communication got lost and there was no way left for me to get ahold of him, so I let it go.

So many years have passed.
Until this book sprang to mind one and a half years ago.

In winter of 2015, I was hit by a strong urge to own this book all of a sudden.
As I tend to be easily driven by compulsion, I finally bought a hardback edition from Amazon Japan.

It wasn’t like I specifically looked for any particular edition, but the one arrived at my doorstep turned out to be exactly the same edition that my teacher had; with the cover in which a woman putting up her hair in a traditional geisha-style.

Oh my God.  I wasn’t expecting this!

I was completely caught by surprise; pleasantly surprised.

Since I got a used one, the cover was slightly worn out and the pages were yellow with age, but it was exactly what I wanted – something that brings back so many fond memories that I shared with my teacher.

It was genuinely coincidental that I got to have exactly the same edition that I once enjoyed, and I was so glad with the coincidence.

Sadly, I still haven’t reconnected with him, it no longer matters – I am content with owning the same edition he once had. And I love the stories in this book. That’s enough for me.

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There you have it. This is the memory attached to this book.
This revisit of my memory lane might have been a bit boring for you to read, but I just wanted to let it out and share with you all.

 

Do you have any book that sticks with you?
Are there any books that have a permanent spot in your heart?

Let me know in the comments if you don’t mind 🙂
Thank you so much for reading as always and I’ll talk to you again in my next post 😀
Happy reading!

 

Noriko

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History Is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera

When Griffin’s first love and ex-boyfriend, Theo, dies in a drowning accident, his universe implodes. Even though Theo had moved to California for college and started seeing Jackson, Griffin never doubted Theo would come back to him when the time was right. But now, the future he’s been imagining for himself has gone far off course.

To make things worse, the only person who truly understands his heartache is Jackson. But no matter how much they open up to each other, Griffin’s downward spiral continues. He’s losing himself in his obsessive compulsions and destructive choices, and the secrets he’s been keeping are tearing him apart.

If Griffin is ever to rebuild his future, he must first confront his history, every last heartbreaking piece in the puzzle of his life.


(This post could include some potential spoilers… skip them if you don’t want to be spoiled)

Incredibly haunting, compelling and beautiful read with a very complex main plot.
This is not a mere hyped LGBT YA book – it’s actually got a lot more layers to it. I didn’t think this book would be this deep and complex; it gave me a lot of feels while I was reading it, hitting all the right notes with me.

The writing is stunningly beautiful and emotionally evocative. What really enthralled and surprised me was the power and the gravity of his writing, how Adam Silvera wove his words. There’s nothing whatsoever that feels over-exaggerated nor overly dramatic in his writing style yet it definitely packs an incredibly visceral, strong punch. It doesn’t even come across Adam Silvera ever tried so hard to create emotional moments and impress the readers, but it simply hit me in the feels and drowned me in the sea of emotions. Simply amazing, brilliantly done.
I liked the dual timeline, too. This story is narrated in the first person, from Griffin’s POV and consists of two timelines – ‘History’ parts and ‘Today’ parts. Opening up with the poignant ‘Today’ part, where Theo had already died and Griffin laments over his death, the story is woven by placing these two timelines alternatively depicting the ‘History’ that the main characters had shared and built up with Theo. I personally found it cleverly done.

I didn’t find myself particularly invested in the characters themselves yet it didn’t take away my delight from this book at all. I didn’t even mind whether the characters are well fleshed out or realistic because I was instead invested in their EMOTIONS – grief, pains, guilt, despair that grip and torment the main characters – Griffin, Jackson and Wade. They are all severely grief-stricken and guilt-ridden over the death of Theo – their first love, boyfriend and their best friend. Their heartfelt grief sends them into the downward spirals and drive them into doing something that they shouldn’t (have) which end up plunging them even deeper.
Such emotions are really well delinated and makes the characters realistic. Their grief, struggles and setbacks especially Griffin’s are simply heartfelt. His grief and inner cries are so heart-wrenching and poignant, sometimes I found it so hard to keep reading; there were just way too many emotions going on which are absolutely relatable, I felt the urge to put it down and take a calming breath. It goes to show how emotionally compelling this book is, I was completely hooked.

The plot, rather, the character dynamics is complex and it totally took me by surprise; I didn’t predict this plot-twist that arrives in the latter half at all.
As the ‘History’ parts inch toward the present, totally unexpected facts and relationships come to light and completely caught me off guard. Yet at the same time, it made the story really genuine and raw. Everything in the book came into me so naturally and felt realistic, nothing felt contrived nor embellished. It simply sank down on me and made me realize how complex our emotions are, how easily our emotions tip us over the edge and makes us do something we might regret at a later point in our lives.

Although the majority of this book is filled with inexplicable grief and pain, there are a lot of uplifting, heart-warming moments, too. Especially I am quite happy and enthralled by the romance between the characters; it is simply breathtaking; seriously, it doesn’t come across off-putting AT ALL. If anything, it’s simply beautiful and I appreciate the way Adam Silvera presented it. This was not something I was expecting from this book. Another credit to Adam Silvera. There’s definitely magic in his writing.

“All three of you. You know this already, but you have to live for him, and you have to love for him.”
“You’re not supposed to be stuck. Do not feel guilty for falling in love again.”

The ending was quite satisfying and therapeutic, too. Having gone through a lot of setbacks and gut-wrenching struggles and torment, each character finally finds ‘hope’ in their lives.
With the help of their supportive families especially Theo’s parents, they finally take their first step to ‘move on,’ stopping blaming themselves for something that was out of their control and appreciate the ‘future’ that lies ahead of them. The steps are gradual and slow, but are steady.
This is the part that I most appreciate. The elements of ‘hope’ and the ‘support system’ literally elevate this book to something beyond a mere sad YA book. While eloquently articulating the inexplicable grief over the loss of the loved one throughout the book, the author didn’t forget to touch on the aspects of ‘hope’ and ‘support.’  I am truly satisfied with that.

History remains with the people who will appreciate it most.

Just because Griff is moving on it doesn’t mean he’s going to erase Theo out of his memory. History does remain. The universe that Griff shared with Theo will remain in Griff’s heart no matter what path he may take.

The ray of hope and the light is definitely there at the end of a tunnel. Each of the main characters finally find their hope and light for the future.
This is a story on love, grief and hope. Such a strong, poignant beautiful read.
I am so glad that I picked this up and highly recommend this if you are interested.
I gave this book 5 out of 5 stars.

Check this book

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