Young writer Yoshimoto's first full-length fiction to appear in the US--an excerpt of which appeared in New Japanese Voices (1991; ed. by Helen Mitsios)--explores love and loss with a distinctly contemporary sensibility. The source of what has been described as ``Bananamania'' in her native Japan, Yoshimoto combines traditional sensitivity to nuance and setting with a youthful sense of belonging to a wider, less specifically Japanese world--characters jog, eat Kentucky Fried chicken, and listen to American music: a combination that, apparently, made this novel--in reality two separate stories united by a theme of loss and survival--an instant success among younger Japanese. In the story of the title, the narrator Mikage has lost her last remaining relative, a beloved grandmother with whom she lived. Grieving, she finds comfort only in the apartment kitchen- -``the hum of the refrigerator kept me from thinking of my loneliness.'' An invitation by Yuichi, a fellow student and friend of her grandmother's, to move in temporarily with him and his mother, Eriko, is gladly accepted. Mikage, who declares she loves kitchens best--they are to her symbol of life and survival--falls immediately in love with the new kitchen. Generous and glamorous Eriko, actually a transvestite--she was Yuichi's father--makes her feel at home, and Mikage, a survivor, is soon on her feet with her own apartment and a job, cooking for a TV show. But when Eriko is murdered, Mikage is there with an effective mix of common sense and love to help the grieving Yuichi recover. The second (much shorter) story, ``Moonlight Shadow,'' lyrically describes the journey that a young woman and man--who've both lost their beloveds in an accident--make from debilitating grief through an almost dreamlike landscape in which the dead appear to an acceptance that life, a ``flowing river,'' must go on. Timeless emotions, elegantly evoked with impressive originality and strength.