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Inheritance from mother by Minae Mizumura

Inheritance from mother

by Minae Mizumura

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This novel explores the role of women in present-day Japan, and while it is quiet and meditative, there are many diverse characters and plenty of action, so it was also a page-turner for me, rather than being a mere philosophical exercise. The focus is primarily on 50ish Mitsuki, a college instructor who discovers that her husband is having an affair at the same time that her mother, with whom she has always had a difficult relationship, is dying. Mitsuki's sister Netsuki also plays a major role in the narrative. Their mother Noriko is a vain and selfish woman who has always favored Netsuki, although the bulk of the burden of her care has always fallen on Mitsuki. Mitsuki finds herself dreaming of a time after her mother has died, when she believes she will have more options to direct her own life. Noriko dies in the first chapter of the book, and Part I of the book goes back to describe the earlier life of Noriko and her ultimate rise in society, as well as the childhood, youth and young womanhood of the two sisters. In Part II, which takes place after the mother's death, Mitsuke goes alone to a hot springs mountain resort to spend several weeks deciding what to do with her future.

This book was originally published as a serial (a common format in Japanese literature earlier in the 20th century), but it still felt cohesive and unified, although there was a small amount of what seemed to be repetition. I enjoyed the characters, and the descriptions of the life and evolving role of a woman in modern Japan.

3 1/2 stars ( )
  arubabookwoman | Dec 18, 2017 |
The Katsura sisters have long had an embattled relationship with their mother. Noriko Katsura, is an egotistical and selfish woman with a taste for the finer things in life, and little, if any, feelings for people. The sisters dream of the day when their mother will finally die, and her demands on them will stop.

This sounds horrible, especially in a society where children are expected to love, revere, and care selflessly for their parents. But for Mitsuki, the daughter on whom the majority of the burden falls on, it’s a chance to finally live her own life. As a child, she was neglected in favor of Natsuki, her more beautiful and talented sister. As an adult, her life is pretty much run by her husband, a fellow college instructor who wants a luxury condo- and is having (another) affair with a younger woman. What would Mitsuki do if she could make decisions without having to consider either of these people?

The first half of the book revolves around Noriko’s final hospitalization and death, and fills us in on the history of the Katsura family. The second half is what Mitsuki does after her mother’s death as she figures out what she really wants out of life. It’s fascinating reading the history of her family and how it was shaped by Japanese culture, as that culture itself changes through modernization and influences from the West. While told in third person, Mitsuki is the main focus of the tale. Mother/daughter relationships, marriage, aging, and sister relationships are all treated here with sensitivity and depth. ( )
1 vote lauriebrown54 | May 21, 2017 |
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"Mitsuki Katsura, a Japanese woman in her mid-fifties, is a French language instructor at a private university in Tokyo. Her husband, whom she met in Paris, where he ardently wooed her, is a professor at a different private university. He is having an affair with a much younger woman. In addition to her husband's infidelity, Mitsuki must deal with her ailing eighty-something mother, a demanding, self-absorbed woman who is nothing like the idealized image of the patient, self-sacrificing Japanese matriarch. Mitsuki finds herself guiltily dreaming of the day when her mother will finally pass on. Though doing everything she can to ensure her mother's happiness, she grows weary of the responsibility of being a doting daughter and worries she is sacrificing her chance to find fulfillment in her middle age. Inheritance from Mother not only offers insight into a complex and paradoxical culture, but is also a profound work about mothers and daughters, marriage, old age, and the resilient spirit of women. "--… (more)

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