Mina's Matchbox: A Novel by Yoko Ogawa, Stephen B. Snyder (Translator)

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From the award-winning, psychologically astute author of The Memory Police, here is a hypnotic, introspective novel about an affluent Japanese family navigating buried secrets, and their young house guest who uncovers them.

In the spring of 1972, twelve-year-old Tomoko leaves her mother behind in Tokyo and boards a train alone for Ashiya, a coastal town in Japan, to stay with her aunt’s family. Tomoko’s aunt is an enigma and an outlier in her working-class family, and her magnificent home—and handsome, foreign husband, the president of a soft drink company—are symbols of that status. The seventeen rooms are filled with German-made furnishings; there are sprawling gardens, and even an old zoo where the family’s pygmy hippopotamus resides. The family is just as beguiling as their mansion—Tomoko’s dignified and devoted aunt, her German grandmother, and her dashing, charming uncle who confidently sits as the family’s patriarch. At the center of the family is Tomoko’s cousin Mina, a precocious, asthmatic girl of thirteen who draws Tomoko into an intoxicating world full of secret crushes and elaborate storytelling.

In this elegant jewel box of a book, Yoko Ogawa invites us to witness a powerful and formative interlude in Tomoko’s life, which she looks back on briefly from adulthood at the novel’s end. Behind the family's sophistication are complications that Tomoko struggles to understand—her uncle’s mysterious absences, her German grandmother’s experience of the second world war, her aunt’s misery. Rich with the magic and mystery of youthful experience, Mina’s Matchbox is an evocative snapshot of a moment frozen in time—and a striking depiction of a family on the edge of collapse.

Book Details

Number of Pages:
15 Aug 2024
222 x 138 (mm)

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