What if you were born frail, chronically ill and the doctors predicted that you would die young? What if death looms over you like a permanent ominous cloak without revealing when your time will finally be up?

How would you live your life? How would you treat those around you? How would you like to be remembered?

Goodbye Tsugumi” is a short novel by Banana Yoshimoto that was first published in Japanese in 1989. The story revolves around two cousins, Maria Shirakawa and Tsugumi Yamamoto.

Maria is the illegitimate daughter of an unmarried woman and is the narrator of the novella. Tsugumi is her sickly cousin doomed to die young since she was born. According to Maria, Tsugumi “was malicious, she was rude, she had a foul mouth, she was selfish, she was horribly spoiled, and to top it all off she was brilliantly sneaky.

Goodbye Tsugumi is a beautiful coming-of-age tale about friendship, love and the human spirit. Like in Banana Yoshimoto’s first work, Kitchen – which I reviewed previously – I appreciate her expressive, yet gentle style.

For instance: This world of ours is piled high with farewells and goodbyes of so many different kinds, like the evening sky renewing itself again and again from one instant to the next – and I didn’t want to forget a single one.

I enjoyed this short read, which had me chuckling in parts – especially at Tsugumi and her brash comments and sly antics. The ending, in my opinion, was wickedly brilliant and captures the spunk that probably keeps young Tsugumi alive.

As for my responses to my questions above, I don’t know the answers to all of them…

I would want to get as much out of life as possible. I’ll probably be impatient. I’ll not waste time on people and things that don’t matter. I’ll spend more time on people I love and doing the things I like.

All of us will die one day. Shouldn’t we try to live life as well as we can, every moment and every day? Shouldn’t we say “no” to people who selfishly demand time from us to do things that we don’t care for?

What’s stopping us?

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