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The Lake Hardcover – May 3, 2011
The Amazon Book Review
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A PORTION OF THE PROCEEDS FROM THIS BOOK WILL GO TO JAPAN DISASTER RELIEF
A major literary sensation is back with a quietly stunning tour de force about a young woman who falls for a cult escapee.
While The Lake shows off many of the features that have made Banana Yoshimoto famous—a cast of vivid and quirky characters, simple yet nuanced prose, a tight plot with an upbeat pace—it’s also one of the most darkly mysterious books she’s ever written.
It tells the tale of a young woman who moves to Tokyo after the death of her mother, hoping to get over her grief and start a career as a graphic artist. She finds herself spending too much time staring out her window, though ... until she realizes she’s gotten used to seeing a young man across the street staring out his window, too.
They eventually embark on a hesitant romance, until she learns that he has been the victim of some form of childhood trauma. Visiting two of his friends who live a monastic life beside a beautiful lake, she begins to piece together a series of clues that lead her to suspect his experience may have had something to do with a bizarre religious cult. . . .
With its echoes of the infamous, real-life Aum Shinrikyo cult (the group that released poison gas in the Tokyo subway system), The Lake unfolds as the most powerful novel Banana Yoshimoto has written. And as the two young lovers overcome their troubled past to discover hope in the beautiful solitude of the lake in the countryside, it’s also one of her most moving.
Amazon Exclusive: A Q&A with Author Banana Yoshimoto
Q: Facing difficulties with courage is one of the themes of your latest novel, The Lake. In it the character Nakajima is struggling to overcome sometimes paralyzing emotional trauma that stems from a very unusual ordeal. What compelled you to tell this story?
A: In this novel, I indirectly took up the abductions of Japanese citizens by North Korea, which was the biggest news at the time I was writing. Having heard the words of sorrow from the parents whose children had been abducted and who still had no promise of getting their children back, I created a fable of my own, with my own ideas, in my own way. I also looked into the lives of the children who had been in the cult called Aum Shinrikyo (Aleph) and I thought about their immeasurable trauma as well.
Q:The Lake is, among other things, an unconventional love story, and it makes you question the definition(s) of “romantic love.” How do you define it?
A: The relationship between the main characters of this novel falls far short of romantic love. They are only supporting and leaning on each other, because they would crumble otherwise.
On the other hand, you could say that they are definitely the one and only couple for each other in a way, because wounded people can best be understood by others with the same wounds. Perhaps, they believe that they have the deepest possible bond and mutually feel each is the only person the other can trust. This is one of the most passionate emotions, I guess. By visiting the holy people in the precincts of the Lake, they are entering the world of the subconscious.
Q: Though she has her doubtful moments, and is certainly no push-over (especially when it comes to artistic integrity), Chihiro is almost unfailingly conciliatory and optimistic--a worthy heroine in these cynical times. Who was the inspiration for her character?
A: The character of Nakajima had been the central figure from the beginning, so I thought that he needed a woman character who could add some optimism to his life. There was no particular model for this person though. I just imagined a little hippie-like, openhearted woman, who is powerful both physically and mentally, since she is an artist who works without confining herself to a studio.
Q: Mysticism, of a sort, plays an important role in The Lake, as do dreams. Are these things that influence or otherwise inform your life?
A: Yes, these things influence my life. We all go back and forth between visible and invisible worlds all the time. In that sense, both my life and my novels are very incantational.
Q: You’re known for creating delightfully quirky characters and Mino and Chii are certainly no exception. Can you channel them for a moment and tell us what’s in store for Banana Yoshimoto in the coming months?
A: I will make my life simpler, aiming to have more freedom and fewer responsibilities.
Even though the situation at the Fukushima nuclear plants will not get any worse than it already is, people’s awareness will never be the same.
At some point, I intend to write novels which will help people engage in deep introspection concerning their lives and their way of living. Reading these works will also help them heal the wounds and pain from the disasters.
Praise for The Lake
"[The Lake] attests to the power of emotional intimacy to help even the most 'ridiculously fragile people' overcome trauma and grief."
—Hirsh Sawhney, The New York Times Book Review
"The simplicity of this elliptical novel’s form and expression belies its emotional depth...There’s almost an artistic sleight of hand in the latest from Yoshimoto, a novel in which nothing much seems to happen yet everything changes."
—Kirkus Reviews, starred review
"Yoshimoto's marvelously light touch is perfectly captured by Emmerich's pristine translation."
"Yoshimoto aficionados who have savored any of the dozen-plus novels she’s written over the last three decades since she became a near-instant pop literary phenomenon with Kitchen will recognize her signature crisp, clipped style (thanks to exacting translator Emmerich’s constancy) and revel in her latest cast of quirky characters. Newbies with a penchant for Haruki Murakami’s mind-bending protagonists or Yoko Tawada’s sparse precision will do well to begin their so-called Bananamania with this beguiling title."
"Reading [The Lake], you realize just how conventional most love stories are."
—New York Times
"The Lake demonstrates Yoshimoto's deepening talent, and her craft for quietly revealing an enveloping and haunting world."
—Cleveland Plain Dealer
"Yoshimoto is in peak form in this mesmerizing and suspenseful drama of the perils of brainwashing, from class bias to intrusive advertising to an infamous cult. Social conventions, memories and dreams, and the creative process are all explored with exquisite insight in Yoshimoto’s beautifully mystical and hopeful novel."
"Yoshimoto’s simplicity — both in prose and narrative — speaks to a mastery of form....The Lake will haunt you."
Praise for Banana Yoshimoto
“A sure and lyrical writer . . . Yoshimoto transforms the trite into the essential.”
—The New Yorker
“Ms. Yoshimoto has an effortless ability to penetrate her characters’ hearts.”
—Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
“Banana Yoshimoto is a master storyteller. . . . The sensuality is subtle, masked, and extraordinarily powerful. The language is deceptively simple.”
“There is no such thing as a stock character in Yoshimoto’s fiction. She writes utterly without pretense.”
—The Washington Post
“The disturbing, ironic, relentless clarity of her voice casts a spell. . . .”
—The Denver Post
“Her achievements are already legend.”
—The Boston Globe
Top customer reviews
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While accurate, the previous sentence is misleading, because it is limiting and makes the book sound boring. The characters are way more interesting than "artistic young woman" and "introverted young man" and the narrator is easy to listen to, and the story is strange and exciting.
Having said that, I loved the narrator of this story and how emotionally fluid the tale seemed to be.
While there isn't graphic content~ it is the story of relationships between family members, neighbors
and those that could be more to each other.