21 Feb / Ms Ice Sandwich by Mieko Kawakami, translated by Louise Heal Kawai [in Library Journal]
Fourth grader he may be, but our narrator is quite the sharp observer of his surroundings. His father is dead; his mother runs a “fortune-telling and that kind of stuff” salon. She’s often the recipient of his unguarded bluntness: “If video games make you stupid, then what do mobile phones make you?” The pair live with his paternal grandma who, despite her silent immobility, is his closest companion.
Family aside, the eponymous Ms Ice Sandwich is the one person who gives him “that feeling you get when you swallow rice without chewing it properly first” – and that’s a good thing. Naming her for her position behind the sandwich counter at the local store, he can contentedly stare at her “great big eyes” enhanced by her “ice-blue eyelids.” And then he overhears three girls in his class dismiss his beloved as “such a freak,” triggering unexpected, disturbing reactions that require a rebalance of his young life.
Verdict: Described as Haruki Murakami’s “favorite young novelist,” Kawakami is destined to charm Anglophone audiences as well.
Published: 2013 (Japan), 2017 (United States)