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‘We need the literature of other countries to expand our
horizons and stimulate our ideas. Without it, we are not only
diminished, we are starved’
(The Times, Magnus Linklater 29/06/05)
Letters from the Living
by Kazumi Yumoto
Age Range: 14+
Six-year-old Chiaki lives in Japan with her mother. When her father dies she has to
deal with her grief alone as her mother is too distracted and fails to communicate
with her. When they move to Poplar House, a new relationship gradually develops
between Chiaki and the scary landlady, Mrs Yanagi, who tells her that she has
been given a divine mission, to carry ‘letters to the dead’ when she herself dies.
Chiaki starts writing letters to her father that she hopes will help her to come
to terms with her loss and entrusts them to Mrs Yanagi.
When the old lady dies many years later, Chiaki, now a young woman, comes back to attend her funeral and begins a journey into the past as she learns the truth about her father’s death and starts to understand the sense of her own life.
Kazumi Yumoto’s narrative explores the many different aspects of Japanese life and culture. An unusual book that focuses on the effect that the loss of a parent has on a young child and her relationship with her mother as they struggle to come to terms with it.
(Outside In: Children’s Books in Translation, Milet, 2005)