Book Review: Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto


“I wish to continue living with the awareness that I will die. Without that, I am not alive.”

Other reviews gush about how Banana Yoshimoto wrote about death and personal tragedies sans the wails commonly heard in funerals. I, too, share the same opinion. Yet one thing that confirmed the book’s position in my favorites’ list was the simplicity of the prose. So simple, in fact, that I read it in between Homer and Francis Bacon. The prose reminded me of yoga and gentle breezes. It was such an easy read! This is all the more kudos to Yoshimoto because she dealt with such a serious topic (death), yet she was able to show that writing or talking about death need not be accompanied with gloom. Upon reading Kitchen, it eventually became clear that the text was not merely about death, but was also a coming-of-age story of a young woman who has experienced so much death around her. This makes the story of the female protagonist, Mikage, unique, because she was forced to become independent when she was suddenly left alone to fend for herself.

Coming-of-age stories are usually accompanied with love stories since falling in love is a kind of initiation rite to people coming of age. This situation is not absent in the book. Throughout the process of learning to stand on her own feet, Mikage faced such events that would create a profound bond in her life. The smart juxtaposition of two seemingly incompatible themes (death and coming of age) makes Kitchen one of a kind. With a simple but special writing style to match, this book should just instantly be read.

Overall, the book is a must-read for three kinds of bookworms: 1. to those who want to take a break from the classics 2. to those who think that chick literature is all about silly, materialistic airheads pining away for some hunk 3. to those who do not want to waste their time.

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