BREASTS AND EGGS
Do yourself a favor – Breasts and Eggs is, in a word: incredible.
After a brief hesitation at the bookstore, wondering if it would be my next read (I already had an armful of books), I spotted a girl at my coffee spot looking absolutely enthralled with her copy. So I did something I never do - I walked over and interrupted her:
“Hi there, may I ask you how you like that book?”
“Oh my god!” she exclaimed, “It’s amazing. You have to read it.”
and I was sold – unbridled enthusiasm from a stranger and I practically sprinted back to the bookstore to pick it up. Let me tell you, I scooped it up yesterday, and once I opened it, I could not put it down. It’s one of those reads that as soon as you open it, you can’t stop until you fall asleep. I was 250 pages in already in one afternoon, and I couldn’t wait to keep reading – to me, this is the mark of a perfect book, and a master craftsman at storytelling.
Kawakami is such, and I do not say this lightly, a fucking poet– she is an absolute visionary. The way that her imagination churns, developing into such perfect syntax onto the page, it’s just absolutely masterful. She is an artist. She delves so deeply into the various stages of womanhood in such a brilliant way, each poignantly laid metaphor reads like a dream.
Now, I never like to give too much of a good story away, I personally love to know the bare minimum when entering the rabbit hole of a new book, so as not to have any sort of predisposed idea in my head going in. So - if you’re that way, too, this is your chance to stop reading here and come back once you’ve finished.
First, Midoriko’s storyline is so beautiful, it perfectly captures the tortured metamorphosis that is transforming from a girl to a teenager, being forced from an age of innocence into all the twists and turns and discomfort and unknown as you begin stepping into the phases of puberty. I was instantly thrust back into that chapter of my life as I read her first-hand experience, remembering each and every minute of mental anguish when I felt I was abandoning my youth, my body, my freedom, and evolving into someone I didn’t know and felt so afraid of – like a mental and physical a rollercoaster you can’t get off. Watching her character evolve was like spotting aspects of myself at an age I had buried in the back of my brain, with mini-trauma memories resurfacing to process away with gratitude.
Makiko reminded me so much of my mother, and many other women I have known, who have all suffered gravely at the hand of what it means to be a woman aging – the societal plastic surgery pressures, fears and self-loathing that often accompany what we define so dumbly as a “midlife crisis.” As her body has changed in the blink of an eye, she desperately grapples with the reality of her looks, denying how deeply she feels they define her. Her obsession with breasts, the complexities of her relationship with her daughter, herself and what it means to be a mother and bare the weight of creating a life for her child the way she knew how based on how her mother raised her, has such depth and detailed poeticism within the minutiae. A beautiful reminder of the toxicity of society and how incredible its shallow impact deeply plays on women.
And then there’s Natsuko. Her astute observance, awareness and depiction of humanity, of womanhood, of what it means to exist, to evolve, to be with Self, is otherworldly. As a writer, I identified so sincerely with the self-doubt and imposter-syndrome that envelops any creative endeavor – as an artist, you perpetually face the fear that your work is never finished enough, never good enough, never ready enough. That it doesn’t accurately represent the longing to express yourself in a clear enough way – that you will be rejected for it. That aspect of her character alone spoke to my soul. The relationship and strength she develops with and for herself in debating whether or not she is meant for motherhood is a winding journey of fascination – but one that I feel millions of women internalize and have deep inner-conversations inside themselves about, battling to-and-fro in their minds, weighing all the pros and cons, wondering if it’s too late, if it’s meant for them, if they’re good enough… it was an absolutely enthralling excursion following Natsuko’s inner monologue, wondering whether or not she was going to chase the calling. Her evolution with her friends, her teachers, Aizawa, the desperately heart-wrenching turmoil of Yuriko, all so beautifully depicted the deep growth and expansion I was witnessing within her as I flipped from page to page. It felt like an honor to discover her teachings as she learned them herself.
I love this book; I can’t get enough of Mieko’s poetic syntax and ability to so vividly depict the inner workings of womanhood and the woman’s relationship with her body. I am absolutely addicted to her prose; it is so deeply musical in the way it dances across each page.
I think Breasts and Eggs is an incredible literary experience, and I am confident you will, too.
*The next day, I sprinted back to the bookstore to pick up her next novel, Heaven – which proved to be just as powerful – stay tuned for the review!