This quietly devastating novel would be almost too painful to read if it wasn’t also so beautiful. Loss figures prominently, but Miri’s rhythmic prose vividly evokes the textures of ordinary life, touching on subjects including weather, work, marriage, parenting, birth, economics, and more. Narrated by Kazu from beyond the grave, the book recounts the story of a man “who never had any luck”; poverty meant he labored far from his family and missed seeing his children grow up. Then his son died at age 21 and his wife soon after. Deeply guilt-ridden, Kazu lived out his years on the streets, and his memories are embedded in a rich tapestry of Tokyo’s sights, sounds, and voices. As the novel culminates in the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, Miri’s exquisitely sensitive protagonist bears testament to both the limits and the resilience of the human capacity to absorb whatever life tosses our way.
Tokyo Ueno Station, by Yu Miri