by Kazumi Yumoto

Summary

School Library Journal:

Gr 9 Up– At 25, Chiaki Hoshino returns to the house that she lived in as a small child for the funeral of the landlady and remembers how the already elderly Mrs. Yanagi had helped her come to terms with her father’s death. The scary old woman claimed to be a mail carrier who would take letters written to those who had died with her when she passed away. Until then, she would keep them safe in a drawer. Chiaki recalls how she came to discover a “world where words communicated,” and wrote letter after letter. The memories and the letters demonstrate the child’s changing concept of and understanding of death. Following the trail of her question about where her father went back to its very beginning, she finds the answer only when she reads the one letter her mother also entrusted to their neighbor’s letter drawer. Reeling from the loss of a lover and an unborn child, the narrator had been preoccupied with thoughts of her own death until the unraveling of this old mystery and the amazing spectacle of Mrs. Yanagi’s funeral give her reason to live. The particulars of young Chiaki’s everyday life are specifically Japanese –the rice-ball lunches, the landlady’s kimono, the tatami mats, and futons–and set this story solidly in that country, but the themes are universal. Smoothly translated into English, this title by the author of The Friends (Farrar, 1996) is another thought-provoking examination of the nature and meaning of death for a somewhat older readership. –Kathleen Isaacs, Edmund Burke School, Washington, DC –Kathleen Isaacs (Reviewed May 1, 2002) (School Library Journal, vol 48, issue 5, p164)

Awards:

  • Parents’ Choice Awards – Fiction: 2002

Topics

10th Grade, 11th Grade, 12th Grade, 9th Grade, Friendship, Loss, Teen