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AMRITA by Banana Yoshimoto


by Banana Yoshimoto, translated by Michael Emmerich

Pub Date: July 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0-8021-1590-X
Publisher: Grove

 Popular Japanese writer Yoshimoto (Lizard, 1994, etc.) abandons her usual edgy hip minimalism for a maudlin and pretentious take on death and the meaning of life as she tells the story of a young woman's search for redemption. The sorrows just keep piling up for our poor twentysomething narrator, Saku-chan. Her father died of an aneurysm when she was a child; her mother remarried and then divorced; her sister Mayu, a famous actress, suddenly died; and when Saku-chan falls down some stairs and cuts her head open, she loses her memory. But this same fall, ironically, ultimately allows her to heal, though the process will be long and minutely detailed. Saku-chan lives at home with her mother, a cousin, her young half-brother Yoshio, and a woman friend of her mother's. Meanwhile, she works at a bar, has few interests, and seems content to drift through life. Working now to retrieve her memory at least gives her something to do. As Saku- chan tries to recall her past, she meets up with Ryichir, a writer and her sister Mayu's lover. The two sleep together, but Ryichir is restless and often away traveling. Brother Yoshio is also having troubles of his own. He stays away from school and, when pressed, tells Saku-chan that he's subject to premonitions and disturbing dreams. Saku-chan and Yoshio grow closer: They vacation together, ponder the strange dreams they experience, and think about the meaning of life. Yoshio eventually finds acceptance at a school for autistic and special children. But it's only after a visit to the ghost-haunted island of Saipan that Saku-chan, her memory recovered, accepts her sister's death. A hurried epilogue breathlessly wraps things up as a healed Saku-chan explains that she's now ready to ``flow endlessly through life.'' Yoshimoto tries hard to be deep here but flounders in the shallows. (First printing of 50,000; $75,000 ad/promo)