My personal fixation with characters who form a story from the white walls of his/her broken, self-absorbed, protagonist bubble is at its highest when I am in my most hormonally imbalanced state.
These past few weeks, seeing that my hormones are at a riot, I grew quite fond of the book Manazuru by Hiromi Kawakami. With a story that journeys the inner machinations of a woman who has blurred the lines between the past and the present ultimately seeking the art of letting go, I found myself a champion character and my wide-eyed hormonal minions are now cowering underneath their emo bangs and black outfits.
Manazuru is basically about Kei whose husband suddenly disappeared twelve years ago. She starts reassessing her relationship with her missing husband and her life after his perceived demise during an impromptu visit to Manazuru, a small coastal community a train-ride away from Tokyo.
While the premise of the story is simple, Kawakami builds Kei with such fluidity and tenderness quite unlike other troubled characters. Kei narrates her story through dream-like goggles laden with playful imagery which is all the more emphasized as majority of the story is situated in the mundaneness of her life.
What is surprisingly beautiful in it is that it’s poetic how Kei continues to live her life cognizant of the man that once was. From simply looking at her mother, to the moods of her daughter, to the ebbing companionship with a married man – memories of her husband hovers, taking the form of boxes (“his box was the right size, nothing had to be pushed in and no empty spaces remained”) and nameplates and green-colored blazers. “I” stories are quite tricky because of its self-absorbed narration, but what saves Kei is she gives just the right amount of lingering, then moves on (either to her past or to her present; perpetually loitering in between the two worlds).
Once the story shifts scenery into the capes of Manazuru, we are thrown into a WTF moment as a woman ghost starts following Kei. Initially, this shadow is regarded as the subconscious permeating into that which the eye can see. But that will only last you a few pages, as it is made quite clear that this ghost simply wants to cross over, and is attracted to the fact that Kei herself is willing to cross over if it means reuniting with her husband. Props to Kawakami for still making this part of the book tolerable despite the I-am-lonely-therefore-I-want-to-die argument through the conversations between Kei and the ghost: …“I feel lonely”, I say. “You feel lonely, but it can’t be helped”.
If you’re feeling lonely, suffering from cabin fever, or just hormonal (or all of the above), Kei is the perfect character to turn too if only for the way she sees the mundane with dreamy albeit foggy eyes. Her indecisiveness between living the past or living the present makes for the perfect kick-off to your this-is-my-longest-breakup issues.