“Moshi Moshi” by Banana Yoshimoto [Why This Book Should Win]

Between the announcement of the Best Translated Book Award longlists and the unveiling of the finalists, we will be covering all thirty-five titles in the Why This Book Should Win series. Enjoy learning about all the various titles selected by the fourteen fiction and poetry judges, and I hope you find a few to purchase and read!

Steph Opitz is the books reviewer for Marie Claire magazine. She also works with the Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP), Kirkus Reviews, the Brooklyn Book Festival, and the Twin Cities Book Festival.


Moshi Moshi by Banana Yoshimoto, translated from the Japanese by Asa Yoneda (Japan, Counterpoint Press)

Chad’s Uneducated and Unscientific Percentage Chance of Making the Shortlist: 37%

Chad’s Uneducated and Unscientific Percentage Chance of Winning the BTBA: 3%

Who doesn’t love a good ghost story? Well, me. I get scared easily. But, in Banana Yoshimoto’s Moshi Moshi there’s a palatable haunting for even the biggest scardy-cats.

In her latest novel, Yoshimoto tells of a mother and daughter (Yoshie) coping with the sudden death of their patriarch. We learn in the beginning that, wildly out of character (isn’t it always?!), the father was having an affair and that his death seems to have been a murder-suicide with the mistress. What follows is more unexpected. The novel isn’t actually about all that. It’s really about a starting over, or of finding oneself, or, maybe, both.

Yoshie moves to a trendy neighborhood of Tokyo to get out of her family home, but she can’t seem to shake the details of her father’s death. Her mother soon follows and moves in, abandoning what she feels was a haunted house. Living together in this new arrangement allows the two to look at each other in a new light.

Not a lot of action happens in this book, despite the premise, and that’s it’s magic. It doesn’t rely on the gimmicks of the mysterious death like it could, but rather focuses on character development and the slow grace of someone coming out of grief and of age.

This book came out in Japan in 2010 after being serialized in the Mainichi Shimbun, Japan’s oldest newspaper. Yoshimoto is a national treasure and now that Americans are able to enjoy this book it won’t just be big in Japan.

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