THE LETTERS by Kazumi Yumoto


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Age Range: 13 & up
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In this lyrical tale translated from Japanese, a 28-year-old woman looks back on the year after her father’s death, when she was six and seven. Chiaki’s adult voice frames the account, revealing that she has had trouble with a lover and is considering suicide. As the story opens, the adult Chiaki hears about the death of Mrs. Yanagi, the landlady who helped her through that year. The news prompts memories of her fears as a child and her increasing confidence as she spent time with the crusty old landlady. Beautifully rendered incidents show the development of their friendship, and capture dark evenings around a bonfire. At the heart of the year is Mrs. Yanagi’s revelation that she will carry letters to the dead when she dies, and that Chiaki can send letters to her father that way. The letters, perfectly pitched in a child’s voice, ease Chiaki’s pain. At Mrs. Yanagi’s old house before the funeral, a wonderful scene discloses that Chiaki is not the only one to have entrusted letters to Mrs. Yanagi. At the same time, she learns a tragic family secret that sheds light on her problems and leaves her more hopeful about the future. Most of Chiaki’s time as a child is spent with adults, and her childhood experiences are interpreted through her adult self. Such an adult sensibility, combined with a story about a young child, may limit the teenage audience, but for those readers who appreciate evocative writing that explores psychological questions, this quiet novel will be satisfying indeed. (Fiction. 13+)

Pub Date: May 13th, 2002
ISBN: 0-374-34383-7
Page count: 176pp
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 2002


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