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Inheritance from Mother by Minae Mizumura, translated by Juliet Winters Carpenter [in Booklist]

Death brings “excitement … keen and palpable” to two sisters, “knowing that their mother was finally dead.” Natsuki and Mitsuki aren’t heartless. They’re bluntly forthright in their relief after being “[b]urdened by their mother’s constant needs and wants.”

The immediate demands as caretaker ironically distract younger sister Mitsuki from the disintegration of her marriage to a philandering husband. A financial inheritance amplifies the sisters’ sense of freedom, especially for Mitsuki, a part-time translator and language teacher, who pragmatically narrates acclaimed Japanese writer Mizumura’s (A True Novel, 2013) latest novel, adroitly translated by Juliet Winters Carpenter.

Originally serialized in Japan’s Yomiuri Shimbun (2010–11), this is “an homage to the dying tradition of serial novels,” most notably Ozaki Kōyō’s late-19th-century classic, The Golden Demon, and Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary; serialization understandably accounts for narrative repetition here. Mizumura revealed in a New York Times op-ed that her own filial frustrations inspired Inheritance. As increasing longevity continues to challenge parent-child relationships, Mizumura deftly, albeit shockingly, explores fraying bonds, disgruntled entitlement, and the ever-elusive quest to be happy.

Review: “Fiction,” Booklist, May 1, 2017

Readers: Adult

Published: 2017 (United States)

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