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Bookworm: 'The Lake' shows pain in life can bring you closer together

By Kathleen Duncan
June 5, 2013 at 1:05 a.m.


The quiet prose of Banana Yoshimoto in "The Lake" will stay with you long after you've read the last, lingering words. The echoes of the story they make up will cause you to sit, think and reflect in silence as it settles in.

A young lady, Chihiro, and young man, Nakajima, stare out their windows each day into each other's apartments. Their relationship builds unhurriedly from waving to having coffee to spending every day together. It is a sweet, meandering romance.

Chihiro is a mural painter who has just moved to Tokyo after having lost her mother to an extended illness. Her mother was a "Mama-san," or owner, of a club in her hometown.

Chihiro is coming to terms with her mother's death when she meets Nakajima. She reflects upon her mother's job, her own unusual childhood and her struggles with her father now that her mother is gone.

Nikajima, too, is dealing with inner conflicts.

"The Lake" is a slowly unfolding story of the intimacy between two people. It explores the ability of humans to learn about each other while balancing their pasts with their presents, their joys with their inner turmoil.

As Chihiro's current mural progresses along with their relationship, their histories become part of the picture she paints. The lake of Nakajima's past seems to exist more within the emotions of the characters than it does in the real world, but it, too, is absorbed into Chihiro's creation.

Much like the style of Haruki Murakami or Kazuo Ishiguro, Yoshimoto's plot is mostly introspective, and her writing is dreamlike.

Yoshimoto's mixture of unique characters and mystical imagery creates an atmospheric setting for the characters to inhabit. We spend more time in their memories and thoughts than we do in the present, but even the present is fluid.

Chihiro's reflections in "The Lake" leave us with sad, if beautiful, impressions that resonate within us long after we close our time with her and Nakajima.

'It was so gorgeous it almost felt like sadness. Like the feeling you get when you realize that, in the grand scheme of things, your time here on this Earth really isn't that long after all."

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