Paperback, 208 pages
Published May 3rd 2011 by Melville HouseIn this character driven book, Chihiro, narrates the story of her relationship with Nakajima, a young man living across from her. She finds herself watching him through her window into his apartment and becomes somewhat infatuated or at least curious and this eventually leads to a relationship. I'm not sure if it was just propinquity or a real attraction but to me these two characters felt like immature, wounded souls, always on the outside looking in, and that was part of their attraction to each other.
(first published 2005)
". . . .what I felt for him wasn't exactly love, it was closer to a sense of surprise, even shock. And so I just kept watching him, unable to get completely involved."
Yoshimoto does have a talent for getting to the heart of emotions, particularly those of loneliness and loss. Although our childhood does not entirely shape us as adults, it does have a profound effect;one of the issues Yoshimoto explores.
. . ."for years now I had been thinking only of myself, struggling to get my own way, pressing relentlessly forward, my gaze trained on an ideal future--I'd been focused exclusively on putting as much distance between me and my hometown, steadfastly refusing to put down roots. But Nakajima was so intense he had rolled right over me, and now he was dragging me along with him. "
Through Chihiro's narrative and internal dialog, the reader can certainly empathize with her feelings.
Both Chihiro and Nakajima have lingering emotional baggage resulting from their childhoods. Chihiro is willing to talk about her relationship with her unmarried parents but Nakajima will not open up about his past saying it was just too painful. All Chihiro knows is he misses his mother intensely and that "something" happened in the past that was very traumatizing.
When Nakajima wants to take Chihiro to the lake to visit old friends from childhood who he hasn't seen in over ten years, Chihiro feels that their relationship is making progress but her hopes that he will reveal more of his past once she has met his friends does not come to fruition. It takes more than that to get Nakajima to open up. In sparse prose, Yoshimoto hints at something so dire in the past that it has traumatized Nakajima to a great extent. The reader is not privy to what this is until the last quarter of the book. When it was revealed, it felt anticlimactic to me.
For some reason, even though I felt Yoshimoto's writing was beautiful, almost dreamlike at times, I still could not get deeply involved in the story to the point where I felt compelled to keep turning the pages. My interest would lag after 30-35 pages and I would have to put the book down. In a way I guess I felt as ambivalent as Chihiro; part of the time I was captured by the author's writing and at other times, I just lost interest.
This was my first experience with the author's works and while my rating is not over the top, neither is it derogatory so I would give her writing another try. Maybe the next time, I would be more prepared for her style. 3***
Disclosure: A review e-galley (192 pages on my Nook) was provided free of charge from Net Galley.