Wednesday, June 2, 2021

87 - 2021 Heaven; Mieko Kawakami

 

TITLE/AUTHOR:    Heaven; Mieko Kawakami

PUBLISHER:  Europa

YEAR PUBLISHED: 2021

GENRE: Fiction / Coming of Age/Bullying /Translated

FORMAT:  eGalley LENGTH:  192 pp

SOURCE:  Edelweiss download

SETTING(s):  Japan 

ONE SENTENCE SUMMARY:  An unsettling coming of age story about two outcasts who are victims of bullying.

BRIEF REVIEW:   Our unnamed, fourteen year old male protagonist hasn't had it easy. He has been tormented by a group of bullies at school who refer to him as "Eye" because of his lazy eye. Subjected to punches, kicks, forced to eat chalk and even a goldfish and one attack even resulted in an emergency room visit.  One day he finds a note in his desk which states, "we should be friends."  Thinking it is a trick by the bullies, when the notes continue, he soon learns that they are from Kojima, a quiet girl who has also been shunned and bullied.   She has been taunted and called "HazMat" because of the way she looks and dresses.  The two outcasts begin to meet secretly outside of school and develop and unlikely friendship in which they commensurate over what each has endured.

Kojimi's story is almost secondary to the unnamed narrator's but,  hers seems deeper and very philosophical. She has her reasons for keeping her slovenly appearance and seems to believes her suffering is in many ways holy. Her story is a sad one as well. I enjoyed the conversations between these two individuals and thought it provided a welcomed charge from the more upsetting aspects of the story.

Heaven is thought provoking novella. The heavy subject matter was an eye-opening account of trauma and the sometimes painful aspects of adolescence. The story also provided some insight from the perspective of one of the bullies as to why certain kids are targeted and why some bullies think it's okay to bully and that it's not personal.  The characters, especially Kojimi,  felt deep and complicated. I thought the ending felt jarring and its one that I am still thinking about. Definitely not a book for every reader but, I was happy I had this on my summer reading list. Translated from Japanese by David Boyd and Sam Bett and very well done.

RATING:  4/5  

Thanks go to Edelweiss and Europa Editions publishing for allowing me access to this book in exchange for my unbiased review.

30 comments:

  1. I always find it difficult to read about children and young people who suffer, for whatever reason, and bullying seems such a pervasive problem during those years and the reason for much suffering. Still, it is important that books on the subject be read to provide some greater understanding of the problem and possible solutions.

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    1. Yes, we had a sad story here in a neighboring town in which the bullied teen girl committed suicide. Her parents went public and the bullies were arrested.

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  2. The underlying sadness of the main characters draws me to this book. I will see if I can find it.

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    1. I know what you mean. I was so happy they had each other but still they had to endure.

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  3. I also find it a hard subject but one of course that must be highlighted. Thank you for the review.

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    1. It's so pervasive these days sadly. We had a 15 year old girl who was so bullied in a neighboring town a few years back that she took her own life. Her family publicize her torment and her tormenters were arrested.

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  4. I was reading a lot of Japanese fiction for awhile, but haven't read any for the past few years. I need to get back to it. Even when the stories are sad, they're always unique and thought-provoking. And I like that.

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    1. I've been drawn to Japanese translated works in 2021. I think this is my 4th or 5th book. Something about them, the stories are so compelling.

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  5. I'm curious about this one. After my baptism by fire with "Earthlings," I'm thinking that this one has to be less disturbing than that one. I'll let you know...

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    1. I hear you about Earthlings but, something about these Japanese translated fiction books has me drawn to them. This was tough at times but nothing in comparison to Earthings.

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  6. I cannot imagine what it must be like for a child to go through these aggressions by their classmates. This sounds like such a good story. Thank you for sharing this one.

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    1. I know it's awful. Even back in my grade school days I recall certain classmates were picked on or as well called it back then "teased". I remember one time at about 3rd or 4th grade one mean girl at my bus stop told others not to speak to me one day....I have no recall of why but, do remember wanting to run home.

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  7. Sounds different and I think I'd enjoy it.

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  8. It does sound good, it's a tough topic.

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    1. Yes, it was different but tough at times. Fortunately it's a rather short book.

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  9. Sounds like a compelling story.

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    1. Ryan, I think it's a tough to read topic that does need more exposure IMO.

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  10. Sounds like a good read. It's a problem that remains very real in all walks of life and apparently all across the Globe. Our school has a very strict anti-bullying policy, but it still slips through. We had an incident just yesterday.

    Lovely review Diane!

    Elza Reads

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    1. It's really a terrible thing and as we have witnessed "little bullies become big bullies."

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  11. Gosh that bullying sounds intense. Not sure I could face it right now but glad you found it worth checking out.

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    1. I know, it's uncomfortable to red about but, needs more frequent exposure.

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  12. This sounds like a good story and thought-provoking, too. Will add this to my wishlist.

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    1. It's a topic that needs to be written about and spoken about more often IMO.

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  13. The book I just finished also has quite a bit about bullying. It's such difficult stuff to read, but is something that is endured by students every day and breaks my heart.

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    1. It so true and I guess has been happening forever. I was telling my daughter I still think about a few incidents instigated by a girl bully when I was about 9 that were very painful (mentally) at the time. Fortunately, I do not recall my 2 children having to deal with that growing up - they did go to Catholic grammar school which may have spared them a bit.

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  14. This sounds very good and yet it's the first time I am hearing about it. I am amazed at how cruel children can be. Bullying has escalated into a real beast with social media and the like.

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    1. Europa Editions are one of my favorite imprints - the best of translated fiction and no fluff which is just what I often need.

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  15. I'm adding all novellas you recommend to my book a day challenge list. I think I'll need them this summer!

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  16. I've read several really good novellas over the years, the Europa imprint has lots of really good quality novellas. One that I recall was Ties, Domenic Starnone (about a marriage).

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