the premonition, by banana yoshimoto

closeup of a dark brown tree trunk with some green leaves growing on thin vines. from the Aomori area in Japan.

I’m not in the habit of reviewing books, but sometimes there’s a story that filters into my heart and feels as if it has changed my soul in a subtle way.

cover of "the premonition" by banana yoshimoto. the shape of a house with two peoples' shadows, covered partly by green leaves
the premonition, by banana yoshimoto, translated from the Japanese by Asa Yoneda

I borrowed this book, the physical copy, from the local library. It caught my eye as I wandered through the stacks, partly because of the blue background, partly because the title and author name are in lowercase, which is unusual.

Reading a story that has been translated is a specific and important kind of experience, I think. Even though I don’t speak Japanese, and even though I have never met the author or the translator, there is a heavy sense of cultural experience that is both the same as what I know and entirely different.

It’s a short book, only 133 pages. As I turned each page, I noticed how many of them had been carefully folded down and then straightened out again, to mark a place for some other reader. There were more dog-eared pages than I would have expected for a short novel, but I think after reading it I can understand why a person would need to pause and reflect and feel before continuing on.

Without spoilers, I just wanted to acknowledge the ways this story felt real to me. The experience of premonition and the kind of knowing that happens to a certain kind of person — that is a thing I understand, and it is very difficult to properly describe. Somehow, the author captured some of that otherly, disconnected yet connected, underwater feeling.

Reading this book was like pausing and allowing the story to come to me as it was. Reading this book was like a tea ceremony, measured and careful and holy and warm and whole unto itself. Reading this book reminded me that life goes in directions we don’t know, and that we do know even when we don’t consciously know it.

As a person whose childhood memories are all but hidden from me — I did that myself, I had a very traumatic childhood — I could relate so achingly to the protagonist of the story.

As a person who is on an Asian drama binge, I appreciated the brief dipping into the thoughts and feelings of someone Japanese. I appreciated the things that are the same and especially the things that are not.

I have no idea how to give this book a star rating. It is the story that it is, and I think it’s beautiful.

If you read this book too, I would love to hear what you thought and felt about it. And how many times you needed to pause and turn down a page to keep your place while you absorbed it.


featured photo by Seiya Maeda on Unsplash

Nix Kelley
Co-parent to multiple kids. Writer. Death doula. Member of the Order of the Good Death. Seeker on the Path of Light. Queer, non-binary, & trans.


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