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Be With You

by Takuji Ichikawa, Takuji Ichikawa (Author)

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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1737125,073 (3.86)None
When Takumi's wife suddenly returns from the grave, he can't believe his eyes. How could such a thing be possible? Is she here to stay? Has love miraculously triumphed over death? As Takumi starts looking for answers to these questions, he discovers the secret of his wife's appearance is somehow linked to the past...and the future.… (more)
  1. 00
    Socrates In Love: Novel (Socrates in Love) by Kyoichi Katayama (HollyMS)
    HollyMS: Both are very popular sad love stories written by Japanese male writers.

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English (4)  German (1)  French (1)  Arabic (1)  All languages (7)
Showing 4 of 4
I vaguely remember seeing the cover of this book several years ago and being intrigued. I hoped I would enjoy it, but I've been burned by so many English translations of Japanese novels. Happily, this turned out to be one of the good ones.

Be With You is told primarily from Takumi's perspective. Takumi is a widower with a six-year-old child named Yuji. In the year since his wife died, he has tried to keep going, do his work, and be a good father, but it has been difficult. I'm not sure what his diagnosis would be, but he has severe anxiety. He cannot travel far from home and has a great terror of being enclosed inside vehicles. He cannot go inside movie theaters, his short-term memory is bad, and sometimes he seizes up and thinks he is dying. His efforts to cook for Yuji often go badly, so they usually just eat Yuji's favorite food, curry. Their home is a mess, because it doesn't occur to Takumi to clean, and Yuji sometimes goes to school in dirty clothes.

This is how things are for them when Mio, or her ghost perhaps, comes back into their lives. Takumi finds her at one of his and Yuji's usual exploration spots, near an old factory. She has no memory of either of them, nor of her death. Takumi had always told Yuji that deceased loved ones go to a planet called Archive, and it now seems possible that his story was true, and somehow Mio has temporarily come back to them. Takumi is hesitant to tell Mio about her death, but he does tell her about how they met and eventually fell in love. The three of them gradually become a family again, as though Mio never died. But this can't last forever, right?

The words I would use to describe this story and Takumi are: quiet, timid, and a little strange. The writing was very spare, to the point where I couldn't always picture what certain settings looked like and some conversations were a little hard to follow. The focus was very much on Takumi's thoughts and the characters' conversations.

I don't know that I can say I liked Takumi, but I sympathized with him. He knew his anxiety restricted his life a great deal, but few doctors had been able to help him. He felt that his illness put a burden on Yuji and Mio, and he couldn't understand how Mio had ever fallen in love with him or wanted to be with him. When he was 18 or 19 and started having problems, he tried to push Mio away. A life without her saddened him, but he couldn't imagine someone like her enjoying a life with someone like him, and he wanted her to be happy. He is not magically cured by the end of the book, although he works harder to take better care of himself and Yuji.

Because the story was told from Takumi's perspective, it was a little hard for me to get a fix on Mio. She seemed a bit like some perfect housewife who sprang into being just to love and be with Takumi, and that bothered me. For some people, it might come too late, but, near the end of the book, Mio reveals in a letter that she made several conscious choices about her life's direction. While I would have liked more glimpses into her thoughts, I was happy about this revelation that she wasn't completely passive. She made some incredibly tough decisions, all on her own.

Before I began this book, I worried a little about its potential to be a tearjerker. For the most part, Takumi's narrative felt very emotionally removed, as though everything was muffled by a few layers of gauze. On the one hand, I was happy that the characters weren't wallowing in the sadness of Mio's approaching disappearance or trembling over the mystery of how she came to appear in the first place. On the other hand, it made it a little difficult to connect with everyone. I will say this, though: I needed tissues during the last 40 pages. Apparently I managed to connect with Takumi, Mio, and Yuji enough for that. I wish I could give Yuji a hug – he's an example of one of the few literary young children I actually like. He felt real, rather than like a disgustingly adorable idealized child.

All in all, I don't know that I'll ever want to reread this, but I'm glad I read it at least this one time. The translation was smooth and generally easy to follow – I'll have to see about trying other works Terry Gallagher has translated (my quick search brings up ZOO by Otsuichi and Self-Reference ENGINE by Toh EnJoe). Unfortunately, it doesn't appear as though any of Takuji Ichikawa's other works have been translated into English.

Additional Comments:

The animal lover in me was not entirely happy with how Ichikawa handled Pooh, a dog owned by one of the characters in the book. At some point prior to Pooh becoming Nombre's dog, his vocal chords were removed, meaning that he couldn't bark – I didn't like this, but I could deal with it because he seemed content. However, at the end of the bookPooh escaped and was never found again. There was no reason this loose thread couldn't have been tied up in a happy way. Nombre believed he was doing just fine, but I needed something more concrete than that.

(Original review, with read-alikes and watch-alikes, posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.) ( )
  Familiar_Diversions | Aug 17, 2014 |
E' come lo immaginavo!Stupendo!!Lo scrittore arriva dritto al cuore con le sue parole sentite...descrive quelle sensazioni vere di dolore che si provano in certe situazioni!!!
Continuo a confermare che gli scrittori orientali hanno qualcosa di magico nelle loro parole e nelle loro descrizioni!ASSOLUTAMENTE DA LEGGERE!! ( )
  Emanuela.Booklove | Oct 6, 2013 |
This story begins by detailing the subdued life shared by a man and his young son after the death of his wife. In the wake of her death, their life has changed drastically. The novel was sad and sweet at the same time. As someone who lost someone I really loved recently, it inspired me to look at how my life has changed from this loss. I loved the idea of having a second chance with a person you have already said goodbye to and are in the midst of struggling with the loss of them. I loved how Mio pointed out the little things in their life that they had missed, like ear wax build up and hair cuts. This novel was written with a peaceful simplicity that seemed to flow like poetry. Ichikawa's prose seemed prolific in this sparseness and in the real emotion hanging between the lines. ( )
  egarabis | Feb 25, 2010 |
"Soon I won't be with you any longer," Mio says to her 29-year-old husband Takumi " but when the rainy season returns, I will come back to see how the two of you are getting along." These simple words spoken a week before Mio leaves this world for the world beyond, somehow comforts Takumi, as he struggles to take care of himself and their 5 year old son Yuki. But one year later when the rainy season returns, so does Mio! In a walk thru the woods Takumi & Yuki are stunned to see a confused Mio standing before them. As Takumi calls out to her in disbelief, "Mio?" She asks "Is that my name?" She has no memory.... and Takumi decides then and there that he will lie to her and act as if she's been ill and has lost her memory due to her illness. And of course he's not going to tell her that she is a ghost. Takumi takes Yuki aside in secret and explains to him that they must not let on that she died- so they form a pact to act as normal as possible ...

Mio is a bit apprehensive, things just don't seem right somehow... But she wants to know what she's forgotten, so Takumi begins to tell her their story, and in simple prose Takumi weaves a most unusual love story that slowly pulls the reader in and slowly makes Mio fall in love all over again with Takumi. In a steady rhythm, between the present day story, we learn the everyday mundane to the poignant moments that make up this love story. But what may appear to be a romantic ghost story is really much more than that. There is a twist to this story ...the present is the future and has a link to the past... On the surface it appears to be a simple story, but looks are deceiving... Just as we are taking the story for granted, we are suddenly found stirred by that surprising twist. A beautiful story.... ( )
  quzy | Aug 22, 2009 |
Showing 4 of 4
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» Add other authors (2 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Takuji Ichikawaprimary authorall editionscalculated
Ichikawa, TakujiAuthormain authorall editionsconfirmed
Gallagher, TerryTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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When Takumi's wife suddenly returns from the grave, he can't believe his eyes. How could such a thing be possible? Is she here to stay? Has love miraculously triumphed over death? As Takumi starts looking for answers to these questions, he discovers the secret of his wife's appearance is somehow linked to the past...and the future.

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