Posts Tagged ‘Moshi Moshi’

I have wanted to read a Banana Yoshimoto book for a long time since one of my friends recommended it. I got ‘Moshi Moshi‘ as a present from one of my friends and I decided to read it this week. This is my second book for WIT Month.

In ‘Moshi Moshi‘, the narrator Yoshie starts the story by describing the neighbourhood of Shimokitazawa in Tokyo. She quotes a description of Shimokitazawa, that a character gives in a movie. It goes like this :

“The clutter of streets and buildings, which seem to have been left to spread and grow without any thought – they sometimes appear very beautiful, like a bird eating a flower, or a cat jumping down gracefully from a height. I feel that what might seem at first sight to be carelessness and disorder in fact expresses the purest parts of our unconscious.
“When we start something new, at first it is very muddy, and clouded.
“But soon, it becomes a clear stream, whose flow conducts itself quietly, through spontaneous movements.”

Yoshie then describes how she ended up moving there. Her father had died under mysterious circumstances. It looks like he had a suicide pact with an unknown woman who might have been his lover. Yoshie and her mother are shocked and heartbroken. After the funeral is over and things have settled down, Yoshie moves out of her parents’ home into a small apartment in Shimokitazawa. She gets a job in a bistro which is opposite her apartment. Michiyo-san runs the bistro and she is an amazing chef. Yoshie admires her and loves working with her. While Yoshie tries to settle down into her new life, one day her mother walks in. Her mother says that she can no longer live in their family home and she wants to stay with Yoshie for a while. After some initial hesitation, Yoshie agrees. And thus starts a new phase in their relationship when the mother and the daughter start treating each other like friends and roommates. And then things start happening. People who knew something about Yoshie’s father stop by and start revealing secrets. Yoshie starts having a dream about her father. She feels it might be her father’s ghost trying to talk to her. Then a handsome man starts visiting the bistro and tries courting Yoshie.

Is Yoshie able to come out of her grief and get on with her life? What about her mother? How do they handle the secrets that come tumbling out? Is it really her father’s ghost which is trying to talk to Yoshie? Does Yoshie respond to the handsome man’s courting and is she able to find love in her life? The answers to these are found in the rest of the story.

I am glad I read my first Banana Yoshimoto book. I liked ‘Moshi Moshi‘ very much. It is a beautiful, poignant portrait of a family in mourning, how the family members handle grief and the surprising revelations about their loved one, and how they come out of grief and get back to their normal lives, and how their loved ones and kind strangers help them in their journey. It is also a beautiful love letter to food and to the beautiful place called Shimokitazawa. Michiyo-san, the chef in the bistro was one of my favourite characters in the book – she is such a beautiful person who elevates cooking to an art and creates perfection in the kitchen and delivers it on the plate. There is a four-page afterword at the end of the book in which Banana Yoshimoto shares her thoughts on the book and how some of it might have been inspired by her own father and how some of the old, beautiful, traditional places in Shimokitazawa are closing down now. She also talks about how there is a real-life Michiyo-san (her name is Yoshizawa-san) who ran a bistro in Shimokitazawa and how she is still running a restaurant in Tokyo which is doing very well and how her barley salad still tastes of life. Well, if I ever visit Tokyo, I want to meet Yoshizawa-san and try her barley salad. That afterword made me love the book and Banana Yoshimoto even more.

I had just one problem with the book. This is a spoiler and so please be forewarned. Without revealing much, I found the way the main character overanalyzes and talks herself out of a relationship with a man who looks perfect for her, and talks herself into a relationship with a man who is unsuitable for her – I found that too forced and somehow tacked in. I felt that it didn’t hang in comfortably with the rest of the story.

I will leave you with some of my favourite passages from the book.

Context : This is spoken by Yoshie’s mother to Yoshie

“The main thing I’m careful of is to really take my time when I’m walking. Go slowly, like I used to when I was a student. Because that’s all I’ve got now. Time.
“You know how the flow of time through a day slows down around late afternoon, and then quickens again after the sun goes down? I finally recovered my ability to sense it, recently, and now I can get in touch with that flow each day.
“I can sense the border between when time dribbles on and stretches, like a warm rice cake, and when it suddenly pulls in tight, and speeds up again. I love being able to do that. I look forward to it every day.
“I’d forgotten about it, you know? Even though when I was a kid, I sensed it no problem, even if I stayed inside all day.
“That’s the kind of phase I’m in right now. I want to let myself take in the flow of time again, without having to think or worry about anything.”

Context : This is spoken by Yamazaki-san, a family friend, to Yoshie

“My old mother’s nearly ninety, but each year in spring she still puts up vegetable preserves – cooks them down into tsukudani with soy sauce, sweet rice wine, and sugar. And each year, when I taste that familiar flavour, we both know it could be the last time she makes the spring tsukudani. But that’s just thoughts. When my mother gets a bumper crop of butterbur or prickly ash, she just gets to it, starts cooking, even if it’s hard work. She’s not thinking about what might happen next year. The great thing about the everyday is that we don’t care about next year, as long as the tsukudani turns out good this spring. So I let go, too, and instead of getting maudlin over every mouthful, I just say, Mom, your tsukudani’s so good, it’s the best, I’m so glad I get to eat it again this year, it makes rice taste so good. And I think there’s a case to be made for you finding your appetite for enjoying that kind of happiness.”

I loved Banana Yoshimoto’sMoshi Moshi‘. I can’t wait to read more of her books. Have you read ‘Moshi Moshi‘? What do you think about it? Which is your favourite Banana Yoshimoto book?

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