From Publishers Weekly
In Kawakami's first novel to be translated into English, a woman fades in and out of the present as she visits the beach town of Manazuru, in the shadow of Mt. Fuji. Kei's husband disappeared when their daughter, Momo, was three. Momo is now 12 and lives with Kei and Kei's mother in Tokyo. Moments shared among the women are pleasant but awkward, due to three generations of unspoken resentment. Some jarring transitions aside, Kawakami's handling of temporal space feels authentic: as Kei kisses her lover in one time and place, the wetness leaves her lips in another; she sits alone on a bench in Tokyo. The real and the fantastical meld as Kei narrowly avoids disaster (she escapes the typhoon that destroys the restaurant where she was dining). Her memories are startlingly vivid, yet their veracity remains uncertain; are the visions she has of her husband with another woman real or imagined? Kawakami has a remarkable ability to obscure reality, fantasy, and memory, making the desire for love feel hauntingly real.
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The Manazuru of Kawakami’s is a dream state as much as a place, a seaside town visited often by the restless narrator, Kei. Kei’s husband vanished more than a decade ago, and only now, living in Tokyo with her mother and sullen 16-year-old daughter, is she compelled to put his memory to rest. Kei is haunted not only by her husband but also inexplicably by other shadowlike entities. She is drawn again and again to Manazuru, where she enters a world where time stops, sound evaporates, women hang from trees, boats spark into flame and disappear, and ghosts come and go like smoke. Yet the fantasy has purpose as a manifestation of Kei’s sense of displacement, and of her estrangement from her daughter and mother. The action convincingly moves in waves between Kei’s past and present, the surreal and the everyday. Part ghost story, part meditation on life and death, family and self, this slim novel is captivating and suspenseful, and sure to satisfy not only fans of ghost fiction but all readers. --Annie Tully