‘People From My Neighbourhood’ By Hiromi Kawakami [Book Review]

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Image: Amazon UK

I’m so glad I read this!

I’ve been so dependent on my Kindle lately. And since it allows me to get whatever book I want whenever I want it, it usually keeps me from getting actual books.

However, when I saw this particular title as I was checking out Fully Booked’s Shopee store, I just thought it would be such a shame to read it on eReader. Plus, I also fell in love with its cover. In the end, I bought a copy of it.

“People From My Neighbourhood” is Hiromi Kawakami’s newly translated book. It contains micro-fiction pieces or really short stories that can be read in around five minutes. Therefore, it’s perfect for those who are busy and don’t have much time yet to devour an entire book in one sitting.

Though each piece is a standalone one, they are all set in just one neighborhood and feature characters that are mostly recurring in the entire collection. In other words, they are interconnected. In fact, as you go on reading the book, you get a clearer picture of the neighborhood they are all in and you’ll realize how bizarre it is.

What I really love about these stories is that they are weird but charming. Its opening story, for instance, is about this girl who takes home a stinky dove-like thing after a trip to the mountains. The creature then turns into a man, and she continues to keep him until they end up being partners and then getting married. One day, though, they learn about an asteroid that’s about to hit the Earth. At this point, she realizes that she needs to let go of the creature, which is according to the prophetic dream she had the night before she found it. And she does so. In the end, the man turns into a dove-like thing again, and then it grows bigger and bigger until it’s big enough to stop the asteroid from hitting the Earth. As soon as they collide, they dissolve into clouds. Sure, the creature manages to save the world, but the girl misses him terribly.

They have quirky characters in them, too. For example, there’s a woman who runs the only drinking place in the neighborhood, the Love, who lives within the premises of the very bar she runs. She likes to sing in karaoke, and she serves leftovers to her customers. For some reason, her venture manages to stay afloat. Though, according to the narrator, how it stays in business despite not having a lot of patrons still puzzles everyone in the neighborhood.

Another character that has stuck to me is Kanae, who seems to be very close to the narrator, and her sister who, in the book, ends up becoming a medium who talks to the departed. This sister does a couple of great things for other people as well, no wonder statues of her are later on erected in her honor.

There’s also the dog school principal who spends his days training dogs in the neighborhood. And, of course, there’s the old taxi driver who lives with ghosts in an abandoned tenement.

Even the narrator is very interesting. It’s just so fun to follow their stories. Plus, they also have a very engaging voice and a peculiar view of things. Somehow, I can sense that they’ve never lost their childlike qualities, and I think that makes them so charming.

Overall, I think it’s a short book that’s ideal for light reading. Besides people who have time constraints, it is also ideal for those who are trying to emerge from a reading rut.

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