A multilingual woman learns life lessons while recovering from a freak accident.
Hanne Schubert, the translator of the title, is a widow and mother of two grown children: a successful son, Tomas, and Brigitte, a prodigal daughter who has yet to return. An accomplished translator, fluent in several languages, Hanne is the product of a peripatetic upbringing and of tough love. As the book opens, Hanne is engaged in an affair with Jiro, the main character of a novel she is translating from Japanese. Her fantasies and dreams focus on Jiro, the complicated creation of the contemporary Japanese novelist Kobayashi, and not on her sometime-lover, David, professor at the fictional Colbert University. (If there was any humor in the book, it might be found in this name, but sadly, it is generic.) Her translation submitted, her expectations high, she falls down a flight of stairs. In the hospital, she becomes a medical curiosity, losing all her languages but Japanese. This prompts her to accept an invitation she initially declined to speak at a conference in Japan. At the conference, Kobayashi confronts her, precipitating a crisis. Hanne decides to seek out Moto, a famous Noh actor and Kobayashi’s inspiration for Jiro. While living with Moto and his brother Renzo, Hanne observes Moto’s prolonged mourning for his ex-wife and takes heart from his example—or so we are expected to believe.
Long on plot but short on story, this is chick lit for sophisticates.