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Q Review | Dead-End Memories | Banana Yoshimoto

“The words I read in books seemed to strike me more deeply, and with my senses sharpened by grief, I noticed the glittering transition of the seasons as clearly as if I held the grief in the palm of my hand. It had been a long while since I’d experienced a fall so clear and crisp.”

― Banana Yoshimoto, Dead-End Memories: Stories

Dead-End Memories by Banana Yoshimoto is the first novel I’ve ever read by a Japanese woman author – and it’s a book containing short stories about women in contemporary Japanese culture. Like other Japanese writers I’ve enjoyed, Yoshimoto’s storytelling style can feel austere to the western reader. The language is simple, straightforward, lacking the rhetorical flourishes and gratuitous descriptions I’ve grown up relishing in novels.

After reading for a while, though, the Japanese style begins to feel natural. There are plenty of beautiful observations and meaningful dialogue, but these happen without the need to smack the reader across the face with them. I found myself becoming emotionally involved very quickly with these characters, likely because I wasn’t required to wade through a whole bunch of unnecessary verbiage to get to them.

Each of the stories in this book tell a story of a woman from her own perspective, navigating relationships, abuses, and loss – and yet – the book felt undeniably safe. I wasn’t afraid that I would be emotionally jarred at any point while I read it. The narratives are gentle, even when tragic. The characters self-aware and deeply human. Reading it felt like listening to a friend confide in you. Despite the difficulties each of these main characters experience, the stories end with a what I can only describe as “hopeful resignation.”

I was enchanted by Dead-End Memories, and I can’t wait to read another novel by Banana Yoshimoto.

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