As I grow older, much older, I will experience many things, and I will hit rock bottom again and again. Again and again I will suffer; again and again I will get back on my feet. I will not be defeated. I won't let my spirit be destroyed. Kitchen, Banana Yoshimoto
Our fifth book choice for The Introverted Book Club was none other than the much-celebrated Kitchen, by Banana Yoshimoto. To let you in on a secret, I read this book a month or so before I suggested it as our book club read. I loved it so much I just needed a space to discuss it!
I don't know what it is but there is definitely something about Japanese literature. They have the unparalleled ability to transform an ordinary scene from the everyday mundane into something magical and other-worldly. (There's something to be said for translations here of course, and I've been reading some excellent essays advising readers to take care when choosing a book not from their native tongue, and making sure to research the translator. Always welcome to see!) Kitchen was no exception to the adoration I feel for Japanese literature. The ability to take a moment, an event, steer it away from what it is and create something new. The ability to fill the reader with such emotion, and do so without drama, without force - that's something truly special.
Kitchen focuses on two strong female protagonists and their perceptions of life and death. It tells the story of how their personal tragedies have shaped and reshaped their views on life, death, and what comes after. It's constructed in a way that takes the momentum of the events - that happen prior to our introduction to the main characters - and steers us through a tale of life. Of coming to terms. Of acknowledging grief but not letting it overcome. The strength of family bonds. Mother and daughter connections.
Father and son connections. The passing of time and the inevitable dulling of pain. Of reconciliation. Of finding a new shape of who we are and how we came to be there. Of the things we will allow ourselves to do when we follow our hearts.
Kitchen is constructed in short, simple sentences. It is a short read and the pace moves along quickly. There is no eloquent, obtuse prose here. No difficult, twisty plot devices. Just human beings, making their way in the aftermath of life happening to them.
Despite its simplicity, Kitchen leads us to ask some of the bigger questions in life. And offers some beautiful reflections of what it may mean to be human.
This book was a joy to read and one I am certain I will return to in times when I need it most.
The Introverted Book Club is a monthly bookish meet up, to discuss one book of choice over coffee. Our preferred themes are around emotional health, psychology, and writers from non-western backgrounds.