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Summary and book reviews of People from My Neighborhood by Hiromi Kawakami

People from My Neighborhood

Stories

by Hiromi Kawakami

People from My Neighborhood by Hiromi  Kawakami X
People from My Neighborhood by Hiromi  Kawakami
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • Paperback:
    Nov 2021, 176 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Lisa Butts
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About this Book

Book Summary

From the author of the internationally bestselling Strange Weather in Tokyo, a collection of interlinking stories that masterfully blend the mundane and the mythical - "fairy tales in the best Brothers Grimm tradition: naïf, magical, and frequently veering into the macabre" (Financial Times).

A bossy child who lives under a white cloth near a tree; a schoolgirl who keeps doll's brains in a desk drawer; an old man with two shadows, one docile and one rebellious; a diplomat no one has ever seen who goes fishing at an artificial lake no one has ever heard of. These are some of the inhabitants of People from My Neighborhood.

In their lives, details of the local and everyday—the lunch menu at a tiny drinking place called the Love, the color and shape of the roof of the tax office—slip into accounts of duels, prophetic dreams, revolutions, and visitations from ghosts and gods. In twenty-six "palm of the hand" stories—fictions small enough to fit in the palm of one's hand and brief enough to allow for dipping in and out—Hiromi Kawakami creates a universe ruled by mystery and transformation.


People From My Neighborhood

The Secret

A white cloth was lying at the foot of a zelkova tree. When I walked over and picked it up, I saw a child underneath.

The child glared up at me. "What's the big idea?"

It had narrow eyes but thick eyebrows. I couldn't tell if it was a girl or a boy.

"Oops. Sorry!" I apologized. But the child kept glaring at me. "Are you playing hide-and-seek or something?"

It shook its head vigorously from side to side. "I live here," it said.

The cloth was big enough to carry things in if you folded it up from the corners. Tall grass curled around the child's legs.

I took a step back and turned to leave. I could feel the child's eyes on my back as I walked away. The hair on its body was thick and downy.

The following day the same cloth was lying under the zelkova tree. Damned if I'll pick it up this time, I thought, but just then the child sprang up in front of me.

"Let's go!" it sang out, and headed down the road. I didn't intend to follow, but it...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Stories often begin abruptly, as though you were in the middle of a conversation with the narrator and briefly spaced out — you feel you have to accept whatever is being said to catch up. "There's a hell, the old man said, for people who are mean to chickens." Of course there is, tell me more. Kawakami skirts the line between realism and the fantastical with precision. Many of the stories are bizarre, but they are neither too cute nor weird for the sake of being weird. Her language, translated with grace by Ted Goossen, is imminently quotable. In "The Tenement," a taxi driver lives in a tenement building that is haunted by the ghosts of the women who once lived there. The driver remarks at the local tavern that he has been out "driving with the girls." "[W]omen are women," he explains, "They're still fun to have around, even if they look sort of blurry and don't have legs." Needless to say, this book is very funny...continued

Full Review (635 words).

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(Reviewed by Lisa Butts).

Media Reviews

The Sunday Times (UK)
Beguiling, with a strangeness that feels culturally rooted.

The Financial TImes
Tempting as it is, People from My Neighborhood is not a book to rush...The interlinking short stories in this collection are fairy tales in the best Brothers Grimm tradition: naïf, magical and frequently veering into the macabre...in a world where much is insubstantial...Kawakami's clean narrative style is very much her own.

Publishers Weekly
Kawakami's magical and engaging collection pulls the reader into a small Japanese community via stories told by unnamed narrators...Throughout, Kawakami effectively anchors the stories' uncanny moments with everyday details. This thought-provoking, offbeat collection is worth a look.

Booklist
Weird, wonderful, and surprisingly funny. Readers who appreciate the fairy-tale feel in the stories of Helen Oyeyemi will find that here, in this wholly original collection.

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
The result is a book that evokes Italo Calvino's worldly fabulism and Ludmilla Petrushevskaya's Grimms-ian domestic surrealism, but with a cultural lexicon that is distinctly Japanese. An engaging and winsome book that charms without diminishing the precise unease created by Kawakami's spare prose.

Japan Times
Offers a delicious combination of intrigue, magic and comedy, like an unusual but satisfying snack. Kawakami continues to show off her prowess as a sharp-witted writer with a keen eye for the unexplored mysteries of humanity.

Author Blurb Bryan Washington, author of Memorial and Lot
No one writes like Hiromi Kawakami. In People from My Neighborhood, Kawakami reminds us of what a gift and a rarity it is to read her work. Her characters love, lose, grow, and fall, while Kawakami paints murals of their lives with the deftest of hands. The depth and complexity of these stories is simply beyond, and Kawakami's prose, from cover to cover, couldn't be a bigger joy to live with. It will always be a mystery to me how she pulled it off, but People From My Neighborhood is a world unto itself—and we couldn't be luckier to get to read it.

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Beyond the Book

Mount Osorezan

Bodaiji Temple at Mount Osore Mount Osorezan, or Mount Osore, is located on the northern end of Honshu, the largest of the four main islands of Japan. An active volcano, its name translates to "Fear Mountain." It's a popular pilgrimage site because of its Buddhist temple and because of the occasional presence of the itako — female mediums believed to be able to contact a visitor's deceased loved ones. In People from My Neighborhood, the narrator's best friend's sister becomes one of these mediums. The itako are usually blind (a tradition that dates back to the medieval period, when such an occupation was one of the few avenues for the blind to pursue) and undergo extensive spiritual training. They are sought out in particular by attendees of the Bodaiji ...

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