Set in modern day Tokyo, The Lake tells the story of Chihiro and Nakajima. They are two troubled souls, neither exactly sure of where they are meant to be. Chihiro is all at once grieving her mother’s death, and rejoicing in the freedom her mother’s passing has given her. She is able to freely move away from the small hometown she hated and begin a new life as an artist in Tokyo. Nakajima is a young man who lives across the street from her. He is fighting his own demons that destroyed his childhood and family, and is now trying to move on to a more stable life. He is so tormented by the horrible memories of his childhood that Chihiro is afraid that he will crumble from the weight of it. Together they visit friends of his, companions from his dark past but who also seem to give him the keys to his future.
While the power of love is the driving force behind the story, this is far from a typical love story. The pairing of Chihiro and Nakajima is the most unusual coupling I’ve ever seen in literature. Their growth as a couple is not a particularly joyful or sensual journey, but they are eerily content and sublimely happy with each other. It is as if they skipped dating and the honeymoon, and went directly to the quiet comfortableness of a decades old relationship. And while that should feel easy, Chihiro still senses the tension of the ghosts in their life – the ghosts of her mother and of the childhood horrors that Nakajima can’t even bear to discuss with her. Their entire relationship seemed awkward to me, unconventional, but I had to trust in them to believe that what they were saying was true. I’ll admit, it was hard to trust Chihiro sometimes – she seemed so immature at points, in others just fragile – but I had this urge to believe in her, or put her into therapy. Nakajima seemed to be such an unbalanced individual that I also feared for Chihiro as well. Would love bring them up or take them down? Does love have this power, or do only the right people at the right time give love this power?
This is my first experience with Ms. Yoshimoto’s writing. It is quite a different style, and I very much enjoyed being nudged gently out of my comfort zone. The narrative is disjointed, with unforeseen tangents and abrupt jumps in time that combined left me feeling on edge, suspicious of my own thoughts. I’m not sure I would describe the overall effect as mysterious or suspenseful exactly, more like powerfully disarming. I’ve never read anything like it before, but hope to again and again.
by Banana Yoshimoto
Melville House, 2011 (first pub 2005)
Source: Won in a giveaway
Also Available at your Indie Bookstore!
**This review was first posted on BookTrib.com’s Review Section