cover image People from My Neighborhood: Stories

People from My Neighborhood: Stories

Hiromi Kawakami. Soft Skull, , $15.95 ISBN 978-1-59376-711-2

Kawakami’s magical and engaging collection (after Strange Weather in Tokyo) pulls the reader into a small Japanese community via stories told by unnamed narrators. In “The Secret,” the narrator’s life changes upon meeting a child who never ages despite the two spending 30 years together. “Grandma” follows a neighbor who plays cards with a child narrator and asks the child for money, until something causes their dynamic to change. “The Office” features a gazebo where a man waits for “customers.” The narrator brings a friend named Kanae to the gazebo, who is rude to the man, though they later discover the man has a surprising talent. In “Brains,” Kanae encourages the narrator to tickle her older sister, a form of torture, because her sister’s nearly blue eyes make her look like a stranger, despite her Japanese features. In “The Hachirō Lottery,” a group of families take turns caring for a neighborhood child who has 14 siblings. Everyone fortifies themselves against an alarming gravity-defying event in “Weightlessness,” though Kanae convinces the narrator to sneak out of school to experience the phenomenon. Throughout, Kawakami effectively anchors the stories’ uncanny moments with everyday details. This thought-provoking, offbeat collection is worth a look. (Nov.)