A small boy forms an attachment to a supermarket employee in this quiet Japanese novella.
The unnamed fourth grade protagonist lives with his mother and paternal grandmother; his father died years earlier. Fascinated by the woman he nicknames Ms Ice Sandwich, whose “eyelids are always painted with a thick layer of a kind of electric blue,” he buys egg sandwiches from her as often as he can. Overhearing derogatory comments about her botched cosmetic surgery, he struggles to understand how others fail to find her as intriguing and attractive as he does. His ailing grandmother, a source of unconditional love, is bedridden, and her pension helps support them, something he finds vaguely discomfiting. The boy has two friends who also don’t fit in: video game–obsessed Doo-Wop, and Tutti-Frutti, who lives alone with her father (her mother is deceased). The novel is a series of exquisite, vividly rendered observations seen through the innocent eyes of a bright, observant child. When he sees Ms Ice Sandwich, the feeling is like “when a blanket brushes the top of your feet. Or when butter turns transparent when it melts over your pancakes.” This charming story, best appreciated by contemplative readers, contains vignettes that will linger long after the last page is turned.
Deceptive in its simplicity, this is a jewel of a book. (Fiction. 12-adult)