Here we go. My second 5 stars read of 2022, Sweet Bean Paste, written by Durian Sukewaga.
Since I started reading books written by Japanese authors, I discovered a lot of things about myself and what I am liking to read nowadays: Stories about life. Since 2021, I’m enjoying reading books that somehow shows me the daily life of ordinary people. Books that shows me a different perspective, a different culture, a different life background from mine. And I am so happy that I found (and read!) Sweet Bean Paste.
About the book: Sentaro has failed. He has a criminal record, drinks too much, and his dream of becoming a writer is just a distant memory. With only the blossoming of the cherry trees to mark the passing of time, he spends his days in a tiny confectionery shop selling dorayaki, a type of pancake filled with sweet bean paste. But everything is about to change. Into his life comes Tokue, an elderly woman with disfigured hands and a troubled past. Tokue makes the best sweet bean paste Sentaro has ever tasted. She begins to teach him her craft, but as their friendship flourishes, social pressures become impossible to escape and Tokue’s dark secret is revealed, with devastating consequences.
What I liked the most about this book, was the slow way to introduce the characters. We first meet Sentaro, our main charachter. We can see a little about him, but it’s when he meets Tokue that we really see him. All this book is about seeing and listening to the ordinary things, listening to the world, listening to ourselves and our hearts. We live in a such a crazy society, where the normal is to have a busy life, to live in an automatic pilot. When Tokue shows us that life is more than that, we understand everything. Everything that we can understand about the journey of being alive.
We also have contact with a disease (which I won’t tell because it would be a spoiler) that Tokue had it. We can see a lot about a time where people were judge by a disease that they didn’t choose to have or to live with. We see a lot of preconception and misinformation and how all these “fake news” can make a life of a person miserable. It was very difficult to read these parts, it broke my heart, especially because Tokue was my favorite character AND because no human being should receive so much negative comments because of something that she didn’t have a choice.
Anyway, this book was such a good read! The pace is good, it is not too slow or too fast. The 215 pages are totally worth it! The translation was also good, I think the translator kept the writing style from the author and his “vibe”. I think if you are looking for a story full of lessons about life, with sweet and powerful characters, Sweet Bean Pate is definitely for you.