‘Ms Ice Sandwich’ by Mieko Kawakami [Book Review]

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Image: Penguin Random House

Mieko Kawakami’s Ms Ice Sandwich is one of those books you should consider picking up if you are looking for something short and easy to read. Don’t get fooled by its simplicity and shortness, though, because it actually has a lot to offer.

What it is about

It follows a boy in his fourth grade who gets obsessed with a woman who sells sandwiches in a supermarket he always goes to. He gets so mesmerized by her appearance, particularly her large eyes and the electric blue lines on her eyelids. It gets to a point where he saves as much money as he can so he can buy sandwiches from the woman.

Unfortunately, the world doesn’t seem to be so kind to the woman. In fact, some gossip about her, saying she had a botched surgery that has made her look funny. He really does not get it, though, because he just likes how she looks. It even gets to a point where he draws her face, highlighting the very same features he loves about her.

What I like about it

Despite its simplicity, this book made me realize a lot of things, one of which was how pure and innocent children are. Indeed, they are only corrupted as they grow older and interact with different people, some of whom will influence them to have certain biases.

It also helped that I found the boy’s voice so sincere. So, following him as he gets even more obsessed with Ms Ice Sandwich, despite what other people say about her and her physical appearance, was such an enthralling experience. At some point, I began to wonder what my thoughts were before I turned into the judgmental individual I am today.

I also liked the boy’s relationship with his grandmother, mainly because I was initially raised by my grandmother and to this day, I believe she’s one of the few persons in this world who truly understand me. I especially loved the part in which the grandma shows support for the boy, which made me realize that just because she does not say anything doesn’t mean she is not listening.

The book also has a great depiction of a friendship between two kids. It is nostalgic mainly because it reminds me of my childhood, particularly how I’d visit a friend’s home and watch things with them. It really sucks that apart from gadgets that keep a lot of children glued to screens almost all day, the pandemic has been preventing youngsters from bonding with their peers face-to-face.

What I don’t really like about it

Although I generally felt the sincerity of the narrator as I was reading the book, there were also a few moments when I found his realizations too mature. Don’t get me wrong, I believe children are intelligent and that their ideas can also be profound, but when writers create young characters, they sometimes get carried away by their emotions that they end up writing down ideas that are no longer realistic for a kid.

I myself fall into this trap, especially when writing about my childhood. Sometimes, I share realizations I thought I had as a young girl only to realize later that those were actually ideas I had much later in life or as I was writing the piece.

Besides this, I also found the setup of the story a bit too slow. I understand that storytelling sometimes takes time and that complex characters should be introduced properly for the story to work, but for a book this short, I was expecting a faster pace.

Despite all this, however, I still enjoyed reading it. It was a perfect palate cleanser after Bella Mackie’s How to Kill Your Family, which, although fun, was kind of intense.

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