Takiko, a young unwed mother, has these dreams. She is running “faster, faster.. . . When she has run until her body is empty, she stops abruptly and lets her gaze return again to the distant, delicately sparkling world below. Rivers trace silver lines. The sea is in sight. . . . drifting ice appears and expands into a world of white.”
But that is very far from her actual life. She has a father who is physically abusive when drunk (most of the time) and a detached mother, the main breadwinner of the family, who keeps urging her to have an abortion. (The baby’s father is out of the picture.) Even after the baby is born, she continues to urge her to give up the baby. But Takiko resists, and makes do, as best she can, in basically a storage room at the back of their tumble-down house. And still. Beauty comes upon her, now and again, unawares. Getting out of the bus on her way to the maternity hospital, contractions already beginning, the morning sun suddenly hits her. “It was a dazzling light. The city streets spread out at her feet and the dawn sky spread above, faintly pink. The color of a midsummer morning. . . . No one was aware of her joy at this instant.”
But after a disastrous stint as a cosmetics saleswomen, she happens upon a help wanted sign for a small nursery, Misawa Gardens. They are looking for a man to fill the position, hard work being involved, but when she find out that they actually grow their plants up in the mountains? No holding her back.
I especially enjoyed the slice of life feeling for Japan in 1980. Two of Takiko’s fellow patient are chatting in the delivery ward, to pass the time.
“I get bored, just lying in bed, moaning and groaning, with nothing to do. It’s depressing. I wish it’d come quickly.
“I hope it does. I could use a cigarette myself. Mind if I have one of yours?”
She and the woman sat smoking, side by side, hardly talking at all.
What’s all this nonsense about secondhand smoke, anyway?