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Goodbye Tsugumi Hardcover – August, 2002

3.8 out of 5 stars 26 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Yoshimoto favors short novels that gradually reveal thin, almost translucent layers of her characters' personalities. Her latest, following in the style of earlier books such as Kitchen and Asleep, is a careful examination of the relationship between two teenage cousins in a seaside Japanese town. Maria Shirakawa is a thoughtful young woman thrown by family circumstance (her parents never married; with her mother, she is waiting for her father's divorce from his current wife) into growing up with her cousin, Tsugumi Yamamoto, in her aunt and uncle's small inn. Tsugumi, who is chronically ill, possesses a mischievous charm that both maddens and amuses her family. As Maria describes Tsugumi: "She was malicious, she was rude, she had a foul mouth, she was selfish, she was horribly spoiled, and to top it all off she was brilliantly sneaky." Tsugumi's tenuous health seems to free her from the behavioral norms that govern Maria and Tsugumi's long-suffering older sister, Yoko, allowing her to curse, flirt with boys, concoct elaborate pranks and shock adults in a way Maria resents, envies and admires. Eventually, Maria's parents are united and she leaves to attend university in Tokyo, returning for a final summer during which the inn is being demolished, and this provides Yoshimoto with all the plot she needs to explore the difficult but affectionate bond between the cousins. Emmerich's translation overcomes the occasional awkward moment to render the frank yet understated language that animates this modest story.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Novelist Yoshimoto (Kitchen, etc.) is a sensation of sorts in Japan and wherever her fiction has been available and for good reason. Her portrayal of life in Japan from a young and contemporary perspective is refreshing and hopeful, albeit in strange ways. Her latest, however, seems nothing more than an indulgence. Maria is the daughter of an unmarried woman who works at a seaside resort hotel run by relatives. She is close to her two female cousins, one of whom, Tsugumi, has suffered her entire life from an unnamed illness. Tsugumi is mean-spirited, antisocial, and cruel, and Maria is often the only person who can get through to her. When Maria's mother finally marries her father, he takes them away to Tokyo, where Maria begins college and a tenuous new social life. She returns to the seaside resort for one last summer before it is to be sold and discovers that the lives of everyone there, especially Tsugumi, have changed. These changes are, however, neither remarkable nor plausible. The dialog is stilted and often cartoonish, and the plot is missing almost entirely. Recommended only for libraries that own Yoshimoto's other works and would like to have everything she has written. Michelle Reale, Elkins Park Free Lib., PA
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 186 pages
  • Publisher: Grove Press (August 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802116388
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802116383
  • Product Dimensions: 7.5 x 5.3 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,296,367 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Debbie Lee Wesselmann TOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 16, 2002
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Yoshimoto's novels have often been called "charming," and GOODBYE TSUGUMI is no different. Maria, the illegitimate daughter of a Tokyo businessman, grew up in a Japanese seaside resort alongside her two cousins, Yoko and Tsugumi. While Yoko is sensitive and gentle, Tsugumi is everthing but. Frail of health, delicate in beauty, Tsugumi is an abrasive, selfish girl whom, oddly, Maria understands. Most of the novel takes place during a particular summer, when the girls have become young women and their lives have begun to take different directions.
This slim novel is mainly a character study, but I found the scenes within quietly engaging. I never once considered putting this book aside to start another. Although you won't find much plot here, the often uneasy relationship between Maria and Tsugumi holds the story together. The only false note Yoshimoto hits comes in the closing pages. This novel may not be the author's best, but its delicacy and skill must still be admired.
I recommend this novel for those who enjoy contemporary Asian literature - particularly Yoshimoto's earlier works - as well as for readers of character driven fiction. Because of its brevity and ease of reading, it makes a good rainy afternoon or commuter book. You won't find the complexity of Murakami or the stark emotion of Oe. Instead, Yoshimoto's strength lies in the exploration of the often quiet connections between people.
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Format: Paperback
The plot of this slim novel is deceptively simple: a young woman spends a last summer at the inn by the sea where she was raised. She lives at the inn with her aunt, uncle and cousins Yoko and Tsugumi, knowing that, in the autumn, the family will be moving away to the mountains. After the summer is over she will return to her new home in Tokyo. Much happens during that last summer.

I often found myself reading lines, even whole paragraphs, twice, to be sure I had really caught the meaning. The many descriptions of the qualities of light and dark gave the novel a sense of the eternal usually found in poetry. For example: "The dusk surrounding us was a mass of any number of colors piled one on top of the other, and everything around us seemed to hover in space, deeply blurred, as if we were in a dream.". On the other hand, the character of Tsugumi had an immediacy that exploded like a punch to the gut.

It is a remarkable book, one that I doubt could have been written by an American author. To me, it had the feel of a haiku: succinct, focused, intense, beautiful.
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Format: Hardcover
Goodbye Tsugumi, originally published in Japanese under the title Tsugumi in 1989, is a charming novelette about bratty girl Tsugumi who lives in a seaside town. Maria Shirakawa, Tsugumi's cousin, is the narrator. She reminisces her childhood when she and her mother lived in Yamamoto Inn owned by her aunt and uncle. Maria was the daughter of an unmarried woman (it was considered a shame to the name of a family in Asian culture). Maria grew up with her two cousins Tsugumi and Yoko. Through a prank Tsugumi played on her, Maria became very close to her cruel and foul-mouthed cousin, to whom everyone in the family spoiled and relented due to some unknown illness that could take her life at any moment.
The actual story begins when Maria, who attends university in Tokyo, goes back to visit the seaside town in note of the last summer of the inn before its imminent closure. Through Maria's eyes and reminiscence we see a different Tsugumi, someone who if not in a fits of spleen and cruelty can love and embrace those around her. A dogfight on the embankment chances Tsugumi's encounter with Kyoichi, son of a hotel owner. Together they weave a bittersweet and ephemeral love tale. It is through her capacity of love and the blessing of the relationship that keep Tsugumi alive though she lapses into illness occasionally.
"On rainy days like this both the past and future dissolve quietly into the air and hover there."
"Nighttime turns people into friends in next to no time."
Yoshimoto's prose is subtle, fine-tuned, and beguiling. She shrewdly employs beautiful skeins of words that evoke the peaceful, charming, and yet melancholy atmosphere for her backdrop.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Reading Yoshimoto is a good counter to the Philip Roth I've been reading lately. Whereas Roth's prose is energetic and in-your-face, Yoshimoto's flows like a gentle stream. Even the little tirades of Tsugumi, Yoshimoto's bratty title character, has nothing of the unsettling energy of a character like Roth's Portnoy. Instead, Yoshimoto's stories have a beauty that is almost ethereal. Granted, I have yet to be moved as much as I was by Yoshimoto's first novel, Kitchen. Still, this novel came close.
It is the story of a young woman, Tsugumi, who has been dying since the day she was born from some unnamed illness. Except that she continues to live despite occasional lapses into sickness. But her seeming physical weakness and poor health has made all those around her cater to her relentlessly and she has grown into a spoiled and mean young woman. The story is told by Maria, a friend of Tsugumi's. Through Maria's eyes we see Tsugumi's petty cruelties but also her capacity for love and an incredible inner strength that keeps her alive, inspiring Maria to accept the challenges of her own life.
In some ways, Tsugumi is one of the most interesting characters Yoshimoto has created. And she avoids many of the cliches that often seem to inhabit books where a key character is facing death. Once again, Yoshimoto has created a slim volume of incredible beauty.
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