Kitchen is translated from the original Japanese novel by a gal called Banana Yoshimoto. This book was gifted to me with the forewarning that it was a bit odd. Death, Love, and Transvestites--oh my! So of course you know I was interested before even cracking the cover!
Kitchen is technically two different stories about completely different people. At first a reader might wonder why these stories were paired. Well, there are the obvious links of death, sorrow, and the love that carries us through the darkest hours. There is also a sense of the mystical in both of these stories. As though there is something surreal in the ugly reality of loss.
Yoshimoto is a brilliant writer. Of course, this being a translation, I can't say that with complete certainty, but it is my opinion that the heart of this novel is well expressed and that heart belongs to the author regardless of any translation. The descriptions are beautifully moving, and the similies that Yoshimoto uses to describe the emotions of each character are poignant and real.
Ultimately the stories in this short volume are about the deep, black sorrow of losing family, and how it takes the love of the living to climb back into the world of light. Sometimes the best love is born of an absolute loss. When someone we love dies, it's easy to forget that there is no real end. Yoshimoto brings the mystical wonder of afterlife into the lives of characters who are so enmeshed in their despair that only an experience with love can remind them to keep living.