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Goodbye Tsugumi


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About the Author

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.


Novelist Yoshimoto (Kitchen, etc.) is a sensation of sorts in Japan and wherever her fiction has been available and for good reason. Her portrayal of life in Japan from a young and contemporary perspective is refreshing and hopeful, albeit in strange ways. Her latest, however, seems nothing more than an indulgence. Maria is the daughter of an unmarried woman who works at a seaside resort hotel run by relatives. She is close to her two female cousins, one of whom, Tsugumi, has suffered her entire life from an unnamed illness. Tsugumi is mean-spirited, antisocial, and cruel, and Maria is often the only person who can get through to her. When Maria's mother finally marries her father, he takes them away to Tokyo, where Maria begins college and a tenuous new social life. She returns to the seaside resort for one last summer before it is to be sold and discovers that the lives of everyone there, especially Tsugumi, have changed. These changes are, however, neither remarkable nor plausible. The dialog is stilted and often cartoonish, and the plot is missing almost entirely. Recommended only for libraries that own Yoshimoto's other works and would like to have everything she has written. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 4/1/02.] Michelle Reale, Elkins Park Free Lib., PA Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.

Yoshimoto favors short novels that gradually reveal thin, almost translucent layers of her characters' personalities. Her latest, following in the style of earlier books such as Kitchen and Asleep, is a careful examination of the relationship between two teenage cousins in a seaside Japanese town. Maria Shirakawa is a thoughtful young woman thrown by family circumstance (her parents never married; with her mother, she is waiting for her father's divorce from his current wife) into growing up with her cousin, Tsugumi Yamamoto, in her aunt and uncle's small inn. Tsugumi, who is chronically ill, possesses a mischievous charm that both maddens and amuses her family. As Maria describes Tsugumi: "She was malicious, she was rude, she had a foul mouth, she was selfish, she was horribly spoiled, and to top it all off she was brilliantly sneaky." Tsugumi's tenuous health seems to free her from the behavioral norms that govern Maria and Tsugumi's long-suffering older sister, Yoko, allowing her to curse, flirt with boys, concoct elaborate pranks and shock adults in a way Maria resents, envies and admires. Eventually, Maria's parents are united and she leaves to attend university in Tokyo, returning for a final summer during which the inn is being demolished, and this provides Yoshimoto with all the plot she needs to explore the difficult but affectionate bond between the cousins. Emmerich's translation overcomes the occasional awkward moment to render the frank yet understated language that animates this modest story. Agent, Jennifer Lyons. (Aug.) Forecast: Yoshimoto's novels are always charmingly packaged, and Goodbye Tsugumi is no exception. A pretty, blurred jacket image and the book's small size should tempt browsers. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.

"A vital portrait of a complicated friendship."

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