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Banana Yoshimoto's Asleep is an enchanting book, three love stories each sly and mystical as a ghost story, and with a touch of a Kafkaesque surrealism.
Banana Yoshimoto was born in 1964. She is the author of Kitchen, N.P., Lizard, Amrita, Asleep and Goodbye Tsugumi. Her writing has won numerous prizes around the world.
Writing in her customary spare yet luminous style, Yoshimoto's latest work consists of three short novellas set in nameless contemporary Japanese cities, each one narrated by a young Japanese woman who has been frozen into a temporary literal or psychic sleep as a result of trauma. Although we meet each woman during a hiatus in her life, these periods are not tragic or ominous, but merely pauses for recovery; part of the charm of the book is the characters' lack of fuss or self-importance. Although each is sufferingÄone in mourning for her beloved brother's death, one fragile at the end of a painful affair and one deeply involved with a man whose wife is in a comaÄeach woman sees herself as an incidental or supporting character, in refreshing contrast to Western self-involvement. The characters' poise means that they calmly accept dreamlike or supernatural events. It feels utterly right and logical when Shibami meets her lost brother in a strange encounter with his son; when Fumi, with the help of a midget psychic, makes contact with Haru, the woman she had so bitterly resented when they shared the same abusive lover; or when Terako begins to share the deep sleep of her lover's comatose wife. These women share a kind of observant detachment, creating a deceptively casual style; while one does not particularly notice the language, words are used as in a haiku, with as much emphasis on the silences between them as on the space they take up. Especially appealing are the relationships between the cool but very likable female characters. At the core of each novella are two deeply attuned young women, and part of the discovery in each story has to do with the narrator's realization of the importance of this female connection. (June) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
'Yoshimoto's writing is lucid, earnest and disarming, as emotionally observant as Jane Smiley's, as fluently readable as Anne Tyler's.' New York Times
Sleep, love, and death serve as the central themes for each of the three short stories in Yoshimoto's (Amrita) latest work. Yoshimoto narrates each piece from the perspective of a strong, central female protagonist. In "Night and Night's Travelers," Shibami tells the story of her sleepwalking cousin, Mari, who is mourning the death of her lover (Shibami's brother, Yoshihiro). In "Voyage to the House of Sleep," Fumi describes her difficulties with Haru, a woman with whom she had once shared a male lover who, although now deceased, haunts her in her sleep. And, in the title work, readers meet Terako, a woman with an unusual penchant for sleep, who must deal with the recent death of her best friend, Shiori, while at the same time struggling with her trying relationship with her boyfriend (a married man whose wife is in a coma). The writing is introspective and, although simple, extremely thought-provoking as Yoshimoto takes her readers on a journey in search of absolution for each of her characters. Followers of Yoshimoto's work will want to read this one. A good selection for academic libraries as well as Asian fiction collections in larger public libraries. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 2/15/00.]--Shirley N. Quan, Orange Cty. P.L., Santa Ana, CA Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.