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Hardboiled & Hard Luck
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Originally published in her native Japan in 1999, this latest offering from Yoshimoto (Goodbye Tsugumi) is made up of two novellas, each narrated in the first person by the author's trademark strong female protagonists. In the first, "Hardboiled," a young woman travels alone on foot on the anniversary of her ex-lover's death, heading toward a town demarcated on her map. Upon reaching her destination, she checks into a cheap hotel, where she has encounters with the hotel's resident ghost and visions of her deceased female lover, Chizuru, haunt her dreams. In "Hard Luck," the young narrator is forced to deal with the impending death of her recently engaged sister, Kuni, now lying in a hospital bed after suffering a cerebral hemorrhage. As the story develops, the protagonist finds herself attracted to Sakai, the older brother of Kuni's fianc? and her sister's only visitor outside of their immediate family. Like Yoshimoto's previous work, these stories, though simply told, contain complex overtones and are eerily thought-provoking. Followers of her writing will not be disappointed as they should find much to ponder here. Recommended for larger public and academic libraries.-Shirley N. Quan, Orange Cty. P.L., Santa Ana, CA Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

Like twins whose paths diverge dramatically, these two gentle stories share little beyond the mesmerizing voice of their creator. The surreal subject matter and dreamy narration of "Hardboiled" make it read rather like a bedtime story gone awry. When the young female narrator realizes that it's the anniversary of her lover's death, several curious events suddenly make sense: a stone from a creepy shrine that finds its way into her pocket; a fire at an udon shop where she'd just been eating; and a nighttime visitation by the ghost of a woman who committed suicide. "Harboiled" drags a bit, but "Hard Luck" is a pleasure, even if it's almost as downbeat as its predecessor. This time, a young female narrator is standing watch over her older sister, Kuni, whose brain is slowly dying after a cerebral hemorrhage. As their parents gradually lose hope for Kuni's recovery, the narrator makes her own peace by forging a bond with her sister's fianc?'s brother. In this gemlike story, Yoshimoto (Goodbye Tsugumi) takes a subtle, graceful look at the relationship between the sisters and the fault lines in this grieving family, elevating her little book from fine to downright moving. Agent, Jennifer Lyons. (July) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

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