“Sometimes you can’t see the scars. But there’s a lot of pain, I think.”
I love, love, love, love, love this book. One word — RIVETING!!!
TW: bullying, violence, mental health, and suicide
Set in the early 90’s, Heaven was narrated by a 14-year-old, unnamed protagonist with a lazy eye. He was frequently bullied by a group of boys at school. At the beginning of the novel, he received a note that said we should be friends. With a mixture of curiosity and fear, he went to meet that person who turned out to be one of his classmates, Kojima. Like our narrator, Kojima was bullied by a group of girls at school, too. They secretly corresponded and met outside school occasionally.
Two of them soon became close friends who confided in each other. They shared their stories at home and discussed about why they’re the target of the bullies at school. Neither of them defended themselves nor stood up for another when they were bullied. They believed there might be a reason for the bullies to treat them as they did. The bullies at school became too violent and sadistic. What would have become of these two troubled-souls? Will they be able to continue finding solace in each other?
Mieko Kawakami effortlessly wins my heart again with this soul-stirring novel. Heaven is my third book of hers and she previously enthralled me with Ms Ice Sandwich and her critically acclaimed novel, Breasts and Eggs.
Heaven is undeniably another great work of Kawakami. It is raw and aching as well as delicate in the portrayal of adolescent torment. Through the characters of bullies and bullied, the writer gave astounding and sometimes exasperating perspective on bullying. One needs to read with an open mind. It is translated by Sam Bett and David Boyd, the two remarkable translators of Breasts and Eggs. I think the translation is a lot more fluid in this book than it was in previous one.
The expressive narrative shuttles eloquently between two opposite ends. When the protagonist is being bullied, the narrative is loud and aggressive to showcase violence and pain he suffered. However, when he’s alone with Kojima or thinking about her, the descriptive narrative is tender and gorgeous manifesting the beauty of one’s state of mind when they are at ease. Told in a fast and linear timeline, the juxtaposition of these two narratives was totally intoxicating.
The yellow scissors and a bunch of cut hairs depicted in my photo is my favourite part of the book. It made me cry uncontrollably. Certain parts of this novel made me shed some tears, as well. Definitely a haunting book that gnawed my heart slowly.
NOTE: If you’re going to pick this book, I’d like to request you to read with an empathetic mind and please remember that it was written from the perspective of a teenager who had been bullied relentlessly. Let’s not be those old twats who forget what it’s like to be 14 when they become 24 or 34.