A young Japanese woman is left hurt, confused, and lost in the wake of her father’s mysterious death.
Prolific novelist Yoshimoto (The Lake, 2011, etc.) offers another story of youth, grief, and redemption in this ephemeral yet lovely portrait of an unformed woman. The narrator here is Yocchan, who's fled her childhood home for the hip urban district of Shimokitazawa in central Tokyo to seek work and independence. A year ago, her musician father, Imo, was found dead in a murder-suicide with a mysterious woman in a forest. The story, like many of Yoshimoto’s arcs, is one in which there’s little real drama, yet a pressing emotional alchemy emerges that leaves everyone changed at the end. Yocchan struggles but doesn't give up, pressing ahead with her new job at a French bistro and flirting with a handsome admirer, Shintani-kun. Her mother, haunted by her husband’s ghost, moves in with her daughter in her small apartment and struggles to remake her own life. “We each had to live our own battles,” Yocchan confesses. “We could hardly give up and die; and if we had to live, we’d have to rely on what we were made of.” Along the way, there are delicate and vivid descriptions of food, work, loneliness, and human connection, too, painted with subtle yet heartfelt language. Yocchan enters a relationship with Shintani-kun yet finds herself drawn to Yamazaki-san, an older man who was a band mate of her father's. The book culminates in a ceremony to free her father’s spirit and a tipping point that leaves Yocchan on the verge of leaving for Paris and, as all young people do, standing on the precipice of becoming her adult self.
A fleeting portrait of a critical moment in a young woman’s life, one with which the late John Hughes might have felt some kinship.