The Premonition by Banana Yoshimoto


I read JacquiWine’s take on this 1988 book that was only recently translated from Japanese into English. She was drawn by the haunting and enigmatic story of a young woman’s barely remembered childhood. Yayoi was in an apparently happy family with loving parents and a slightly younger brother Tetsuo. One day out of the blue she has a vision of having had a sister and comes to realize that person was the woman she knows as her aunt.

She is drawn to visit Aunt Yukino who lives an unconventional life and slowly she realizes that she has forgotten her life with her parents who were killed in a car crash when she was very young and that Yukino was, in fact, her sister. We learn too that Yayoi herself had second sight:  when she was younger she knew in advance who was calling her parents when their phone rang. And we learn that her feeling of not knowing who she was moved her when she was younger to leave home for a few days at a time.

Though Yukino has taught school for some years, her life at her home is ruled by whim. She eats whatever is at hand, whenever hunger comes her way, and discards unwanted items in her backyard. In the course of a visit to Yukino who had vanished from her home unaccountably, Yayoi learns that her brother has long known she was not his sister.

It was the dreamlike read that captivated JacquiWine and kept me listening. The tale left me with some questions that need to be ignored to enjoy the dreamy quality and evocative mood.

Banana Yoshimoto, The Premonition, Counterpoint LLC, orig. 1988 in Japanese, trans. 2023, 144 pages (I listened to the audiobook). This book is not in the public library but seven others written by her are. Her best known book is Kitchen.

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