Another short novel by Banana Yoshimoto, this one from 1989, about a young woman named Maria Shirakawa. She lives with her mother and sees her father, and at a given time in her life she becomes friends with another young woman named Tsugumi. Tsugumi is described as a “lifelong invalid”, and is stricken with a debilitating disease. She is more or less always dying, but not necessarily acutely dying. She is also interesting, kind of mean, fun to be around, and Maria’s best friend. Throughout the novel Maria and Tsugumi have a more or less regular friendship structured by and in some ways limited by Tsugumi’s condition, but not necessarily defined by it. They go to festivals, meet boys, have the kinds of adventures that teenagers have, and while this is an important of Tsugumi’s life, she sense of her own mortality is a kind of waiting for the other shoe to drop situation and not a terminal ticking down kind of thing.
In this way the novel is an interesting look at the ways all friendships manifest. We generally know that we enter into friendships in a temporary way. All we have to do is look at how many friendships we’ve had that have ended in relatively unmeaning and unimportant ways. I think I have had accidentally one friendship end in a significant flameout, a few end in what was clearly a terminating conversation, and then many that have ended through slow fading away.
But I also teach high school seniors and remember my own high school relationships and know how serious I felt they all were, and I see it in my students.