People From My Neighborhood: A Book Review

On November 30, 2021, Soft Skull releases People From My Neighborhood, a collection stories by award-winning Japanese author Hiromi Kawakami and translated by Ted Goossen.

People From My Neighborhood by Hiromi Kawakami, translated by Ted Goossen

The summary for People From My Neighborhood beautifully describes its contents as “twenty-six ‘palm of the hand’ stories.” Indeed, the stories are cleverly brief, each embodying a kishōtenketsu quality–a traditional Japanese four-part structure–in which the narrator deepens the subject until a twist and result. Within as short a span as three pages, Kawakami is able to develop a situation and surprise the reader, delivering an imaginative and thrilling moment which continually bleeds story into story.

Whereas the collection begins with vignettes telescoping into the activities of individual characters, as the stories progress, characters reoccur and the town itself as a collective becomes a character in these sketches. Likewise, as the pages pass, the book gradually settles into its increasingly absurd nature, drawing the reader slowly into its fantastical anecdotes. By the end, I had happily disregarded reality and applied for citizenship in this delightfully wacky yet occasionally sinister town, having had my own two feet lifted from the ground during the experience, much like the narrator and her friend Kanae did during their no-gravity event.

Brilliant, creative, and entertaining, People From My Neighborhood will charm its readers and inspire us all to reconsider the people in our neighborhood.

Thank you to Soft Skull for sending me a review copy of this work.

For more book reviews from Slanted Spines, check out this page.


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