When my mother took a nervous breakdown (her fourth in a week), she was prescribed a book by her GP. “Fuck reading the book,” she snarled. “I want Valium.” In theory, the NHS scheme of giving patients a list of books to make them feel better is a worthy thing to do. In practice, most people just want drugs. *Well, most of my family, that is.* However, if I had the power to prescribe books, then I’d surely scribble out a prescription for Banana Yoshimoto’s Kitchen. Years after discovering it in my local library, Kitchen is still one of the most soothingly comforting books I’ve ever read. When life threatens to overwhelm me, I reach for Kitchen. It’s easy to find, being in my kitchen next to the snack cupboard. LIFE HACK: Always keep the good books in easy reach. The good books and tubes of Pringles.
Two novellas in one, Kitchen tells of Mikage, an orphan raised by her grandmother. Deep in grief after her grandmother dies, Mikage ends up Yoichi and his mother (who used to be his father) and together they become an improvised family. Life isn’t always easy, but they have each other…until one day, they don’t. Moonlight Shadow, the second novella in this book, is nearly as good as Kitchen and thankfully just as idiosyncratic.
The thing I love most about Banana’s books is that she never tries to show off or be impressive. She doesn’t need to. Her writing is crisp, her style deceptively beguiling. Also, there’s something deeply reassuring for a reader knowing that no matter what happens to Banana’s characters, they’ll always find a way forward. Banana’s books all share this sort of unassuming power. Each one is gloriously uplifting, quietly life-affirming. I’m not able to prescribe Banana Yoshimoto’s books, but I can recommend them.
Buy Kitchen HERE.