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The Lake: 07/05/11

cover art

"When things get really bad, you take comfort in the placeness of a place."

The Lake by Banana Yoshimoto was originally published in 2005 as Mizuumi. The proceeds from this beautiful and haunting translation by Michael Emmerich will go towards Japanese tsunami relief.

Chihiro, the narrator of the novel, is coming to terms with the death of her mother and her new status as an adult on her own. Her father is living but she has always been closest to her mother and she feels now is the time to be herself, whatever that means.

Chihiro starts her story off describing her mother and father's unusual romance and to some degree how growing up in a night club affected her childhood. But it's written in a detached, trancelike fashion. She also speaks of her mother's illness and death and sleeping on the floor of the hospital room.

Then things change focus to Nakajima, the man in her life. He's clearly a somewhat broken, fragile person but the two of them make an odd but comfortable couple. Most of Lake is her discovery of his past.

From reading through reviews already posted, many reviewers are upset over the blurb on the back of the book (and the description provided with the book on GoodReads and Amazon). Since I was reading an eGalley, I didn't have a back of the book to read. If I had, I would have.

So rather than spoil the book, let me describe Nakajima as I saw him in my head. Physically he is described as an older version of Kimihiro Watanuki: tall, very thin, prone to fainting and living on his own as long as anyone can remember. Now take Watanuki and give him a childhood experience similar to that of the protagonist in Ghost Hound and you get Nakajima.

My only complaint, and it's a minor one, is that the book took a little to long to get started. Chihiro lingering over her mother's illness takes a while to get through. It's a bit maudlin and her mother doesn't strike me as somone who would have enjoyed such a drawn out memorial.

Four stars.

Review read courtesy of NetGalley

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