Publication Date: 10 June 2021
Length: 167 pages
Genre: Literary Fiction | Translated Fiction | Japanese Fiction
CW: suicide ideation, self harm, violence, assault, sexual assault
Hailed as a bold foray into new literary territory, Kawakami’s novel is told in the voice of a fourteen-year-old student subjected to relentless torment for having a lazy eye. Instead of resisting, the boy suffers in complete resignation. The only person who understands what he is going through is a female classmate who suffers similar treatment at the hands of her tormenters.GoodReads
The young friends meet in secret in the hopes of avoiding any further attention and take solace in each other’s company, completely unaware that their relationship has not gone unnoticed by their bullies . . .
After reading Breasts and Eggs earlier in the year I was thrilled to see that more of Kawakami’s work was being translated into English. As soon as my copy of Heaven arrived I was itching to get started. So when I had a quiet afternoon to myself I settled down and got stuck in.
Our protagonist for this novella is a 14-year-old boy who is, cruelly, nicknamed ‘Eyes’ by other students and is relentlessly, and brutally, bullied. Kawakami does an excellent job of crafting our protagonist and the complexities of finding your way at such an awkward age. the way he is suspicious of the seemingly hind heroes in his home immediately endeared me to him. What has he been going through to read these heroes and feel unease? Soon after we meet Kojima, the quiet girl in his class who is leaving him the notes. Although she is also buried at school, I loved the way they bonded over everything else but that. Instead of bringing up such a topic, they just want to understand each other as well as he understood. These heroes and the occasional melt are filled with so many touching and heartbreaking conversations.
Kawakami certainly does not shy away from illustrating how brutal and unthinkably cruel teenagers can be to each other. with the graphic and creative ways they come up with to torment our protagonist. It does more for some very difficult reading at times but you just can’t stop. Kawakami writes in a way that is utterly captivating and you can feel the sense of entrapment that our protagonist is feeling when confronted by Ninomiya and his gang. However it isn’t just the senseless violence that made me pause but a conversation with one of the bullies. Hearing the way he truly felt about the situation and his means of juror tying it sent a shiver down my spine. As humans we find comfort in patterns or reason as we believe that it helps us understand – but to be confronted by the foot that this isn’t always the case is deeply unsettling.
Overall, I really enjoyed this novella and devoured it in the space of a couple hours as I just had to know what would happen to all the characters. I really hope to read more of Kawakami’s work in the future as her talent for writing is remarkable.