An I-Novel by Minae Mizumura

Juliet Winters Carpenter (Translator)

Available on NetGalley until June 9th 2021

This book is said to be semi-autobiographical. I do not know where to place the book in my listing, given this information. The lead protagonist shares the name and much of the background of the author herself. This explains the inherent acceptability of the complex emotions that swirl through the tale.
If you have ever had the feeling of being the ‘other’ in any social situation, the story will have a more significant impact on you. I have lived away from my home country for almost half my life now, and even before, there were differences in my home life versus the outside, which was my normal. This means that I empathize with the conflict in the lead protagonist’s mind.
In the current time frame, we have two sisters who converse over the phone, and as with many multicultural families, their conversations are littered with English words. This is highlighted for us as is explained in the introduction, adding extra nuance into the reading. During the talks over a few days, the narrative moves back and forth in time and gives us a slowly unfolding picture of the past and how life in America treated both sisters. This is one book that can fuel multiple discussions in any reading group. The world is a lot closer now, with the internet and children from all countries growing up on a steady diet of similar animated series’ thanks to streaming sites. However, this is based in a time gone by where it was both harder and easier to maintain your own personal brand of ‘culture’. The delineation between time and days was a little blurred, it took me a while to orient myself in the narrative, but once I got into the groove, I really enjoyed the experience (I use this word despite it being a pretty heavy emotional read and not exactly happy).
The different theme and the various facets of individual people depicted here made it pretty different. I recommend giving it a shot if you like the idea of translated works and also varying viewpoints.
I received an ARC of the translated work thanks to NetGalley and the publishers but the review is entirely based on my own reading experience.

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