Book Review // Kitchen ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Book Name: Kitchen
Author: Banana Yoshimoto

After losing her last remaining family member, Mikage finds herself living with Yuichi and his mother Eriko. The three of them form close bonds, as they face further trials and losses together. This is a book about relationships and grief, about love and loss.

Review: 5/5 ⭐
I don’t rightly know how to explain this book. For a novella, this book manages to evoke a myriad of emotions with a skillful subtlety. It is multilayered and beautifully written. When I got to the end, I immediately wanted to reread it, something that has only happened once before, when I read The Little Prince.

The way Yoshimoto writes about grief is painfully real. As I go through my own grief journey, her words seemed pulled from my own heart, in a way that is not blatant or artificial. It was as though she wrote my feelings into existence and gave them a voice.

There is a natural progression from the initial shock in the death of a loved one, to living with the grief as it becomes a part of them. There is also a nonlinearity to this anguish that possesses an undeniable reality. I found it poignant, moving.

But it wasn’t just the descriptions of grief that stirred my emotions. Even ordinary things, such as Mikage’s observations of nature and how it affects her, are written so whimsically. I felt as though I had been transported to a world more beautiful than mine.

Someone who can write about trees and the wind, about gardening and the wonders of a kitchen, about what it means to be home and find a family. I had to stop myself from highlighting whole pages.

I liked all of the main characters, even Mikage as the first-person narrator. Usually I find that with first-person narration, the character ends up falling flat or even annoying. Not so with Mikage, who proves just as complex as those she speaks about.

Perhaps it is my current phase of life, but this book moved me in a way that I am still processing, despite finishing it days ago. It is the kind of book that I know will stay with me for a long, long time.

And now, I must return to reread Kitchen and fall in love with it all over again.


When was it I realized that, on this truly dark and solitary path we all walk, the only way we can light is our own?

Although I was raised with love, I was always lonely. Someday, without fail, everyone will disappear, scattered into the blackness of time.

In this world there is no place for sadness. No place; not one.

The scratching of our pens mingled with the sound of raindrops beginning to fall in the transparent stillness of the evening. Outside, a warm wind came roaring up, a spring storm. It seemed to shake the very night view out the terrace window.

The conversation we just had was like a glimpse of stars through a chink in a cloudy sky–perhaps, over time, talks like this would lead to love.

But if a person hasn’t experienced true despair, she grows old never knowing how to evaluate where she is in life; never understanding what joy really is. I’m grateful for it.

There are many days when all the awful things that happen make you sick at heart, when the path before you is so steep you can’t bear to look. Not even love can rescue a person from that. Still, enveloped in the twilight coming from the west, there she was, watering the plants with her slender, graceful hands, in the midst of a light so sweet it seemed to form a rainbow in the transparent water she poured.

From the bottom of my heart, I wanted to give up; I wanted to give up on living. There was no denying that tomorrow would come, and the day after tomorrow, and so next week, too. I never thought it would be this hard, but I would go on living in the midst of a gloomy depression–and that made me feel sick to the depths of my soul.

My god–in this gigantic universe there can’t be a pair like us. The fact that we’re friends is amazing.

Truly great people emit a light that warms the hearts of those around them. When that light has been put out, a heavy shadow of despair descends.

To the extent that I had come to understand that despair does not necessarily result in annihilation, that one can go on as usual in spite of it, I had become hardened. Was that what it means to be an adult, to live with ugly ambiguities?

No matter what, I want to continue living with the awareness that I will die. Without that, I am not alive. It is what makes the life I have now possible. Inching one’s way along a steep cliff in the dark: on reaching the highway, one breathes a sigh of relief. Just when one can’t take any more, one sees the moonlight. Beauty that seems to infuse itself into the heart: I know about that.

He spoke as if he knew my very soul.

It was all your imagination. And imagination is sometimes worse than reality.

In the uncertain ebb and flow of time and emotions, much of one’s life history is etched in the senses. And things of no particular importance, or irreplaceable things, can suddenly resurface in a cafe one winter night.

Words, too explicit, always cast a shadow over that faint glow.

As I walked along in the moonlight, I wished that I might spend the rest of my life traveling from place to place. If I had a family to go home to perhaps I might have felt adventurous, but as it was I would be horribly lonely. Still, it just might be the life for me. When you’re traveling, every night the air is clear and crisp, the mind serene. In any case, if nobody was waiting for me anywhere, yes, this serene life would be the thing. But I’m not free, I realized; I’ve been touched by Yuichi’s soul.

No I felt really alone, at the bottom of a deep loneliness that no one could touch. People aren’t overcome by situations or outside sources; defeat invades from within, I thought.

You see … how much I don’t want to lose you. We’ve been very lonely, but we had it easy. Because death is so heavy–we, too young to know about it, couldn’t handle it. After this you and I may end up seeing nothing but suffering, difficulty, and ugliness, but if only you’ll agree to it, I want for us to go on to more difficult places, happier places, whatever comes, together.

The endless sea was shrouded in darkness. I could see the shadowy forms of gigantic, rugged crags against which the waves were crashing. While watching them, I felt a strange, sweet sadness. In the biting air I told myself, there will be so much pleasure, so much suffering.

4 responses to “Book Review // Kitchen ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐”

  1. You wrote this beautifully, it’s brilliant!

  2. Beautiful review and beautiful quotes. I’m glad this book exists to accompany you on your own journey.

    1. Thank you so much. This book is very special.

  3. […] Banana Yoshimoto works her magic yet again in Dead-End Memories. Her prose never wavers in its quiet beauty. As you’ll see below, I highlighted way too much again, just like in Kitchen. […]

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