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Inheritance from Mother by Minae Mizumura

Inheritance from Mother

  • Hardcover $27.95

    May 02, 2017 | 464 Pages

  • Ebook $17.99

    May 02, 2017 | 448 Pages

Product Details


“In this compelling exploration of family history and its impact on relationships and traditions, Mizumura offers insight into how Japanese culture and shows how two daughters can survive the
damage wrought by an onerous parent.” PUBLISHERS WEEKLY

“… Suffused with Japanese culture and traditions… Inheritance from Mother is a serial novel, in the old tradition, and Mizumura repeatedly explores that old, lost world too. Yet again, the clash and overlap of cultures figures in the story, cleverly brought up by Mizumura in yet another guise. A fascinating example of the overlap of Japanese and foreign influences, nicely brought to the fore by Mizumura.” COMPLETE REVIEW
“…A novel of female endurance and obligation…“She won’t do us all a favor and die” is one of the many shameful but exquisitely truthful thoughts shared by the Katsura daughters…about their mother… in this understated anatomization of intense family feelings. Distinguished Japanese writer Mizumura (The Fall of Language in the Age of English, 2015, etc.) traces this agonizing phase, and all the generational circumstances and feelings prefiguring it… [and] her husband’s latest infidelity and the likelihood of divorce. An “homage to the dying tradition of serial novels”…it’s narrated in brief, simple chapters, the tone even and mature as it delves into the unhappiest, most intractable corners of a middle-aged woman’s life and psyche. Questions about love, money, and female choices are posed amid contrasts with earlier generations of women and altered expectations following World War II…the decisions finally made by Mitsuki arrive with a persuasive sense of late-life liberation. A long, minute, subtle consideration of aging, loyalty, and the bonds of love grounded in thE material details of Japanese culture but resonating far beyond.”KIRKUS

“Minae Mizumura’s gorgeous and intimate novel, Inheritance from Mother, paints the conundrum [between generations] bright — both specifically, as a Japanese issue, and universally, as the developed world’s aging population explodes. . . Originally published in 2010 and 2011 as a serial novel in the Yomiuri Shimbun, Japan’s most widely read daily newspaper, Inheritance from Mother went on to win the Osaragi Jiro Award. . . One of the most entrancing things about this novel is that it retains the rhythm of a serial even in bound-book form. . .  Mizumura’s writing is urgent yet thorough, and her plot — with its multiple divorces and infidelities, scheming, legends and deaths — just short of overwrought. But her prose is controlled and as dense as poetry. . . The resolution of Inheritance from Mother is natural and satisfying in myriad ways.” WASHINGTON POST

“While caring for her dying mother, Mizumura’s main character, Mitsuki, discovers that her husband secretly plans to leave her for another woman. Wretchedness abounds in this family, but Mizumura slowly complicates this image, illustrating the gray area between selfishness and autonomy. . . By depicting familial dutifulness as superficial and perfunctory, Mizumura rebels against the conventional notion of the lovingly doting daughter and wife, even as she critiques the shallowness and materialism that those obligations can entail. . . As the novel unfolds, layers of financial hardship and disappointed expectations are revealed between each generation that came before the two sisters, forming an intricate family history of delusion, sacrifice, and resentment. But the second half of the novel ushers in compassion. We slowly discover how each individual’s intentions can be passed down through generations and distorted like a decades-long game of ‘Telephone,’ unintentionally causing just as much pain as it was designed to avoid. Mizumura endows her characters with complexity in a stunningly graceful manner. . . The humbling experience of realizing how little we know about the people in our own lives is a rare and valuable gift. Mizumura’s depiction of the relationship between eastern and western ideals is one of the most gripping aspects of the novel. Her characters are alternately seduced by the rituals of Japanese tradition and the romance of Western culture—a reverse fetishization and a contemporary response to ‘Orientalism’ . . . Mizumura inevitably evokes comparisons to Isabelle Allende and Amy Tan for her focus on strong and resilient female characters, multi-generational families in a culture where family comes first, and dynamics of Western invasion into Eastern traditions. But her work is steeped in self-awareness, brazenly critiquing the traditional structures so integral to her history. Mizumura does not avoid diving head first into those things that leave the deepest scars: death, infidelity, and the surrendering of dreams are where she starts.” THE RUMPUS 

Inheritance from Mother is a thoughtful examination of the emotional complexities and contradictions that surround the aging and death of a parent. Through deft, engrossing storytelling, Mizumura addresses the reality of this all too commonplace experience. It’s a timely, substantial novel and a pleasure to read.”
–Euan Monaghan, Structo Magazine
“Minae Mizumura’s Inheritance from Mother is a deeply moving exploration of the complex and often fraught relationships between mothers and daughters. Mizumura uses her astute powers of observation to reveal, layer by layer, the turmoil and anger roiling beneath the surface of her characters. A beautifully crafted novel with universal appeal.”
–Cari Luna, author of The Revolution of Every Day
“Mizumura’s previous novel in English was transcendently romantic; in Inheritance from Mother, romance manifests mainly as liability and false lure, while the years devolve from poetry to prose. The ingenious plot, however, produces vitality and beauty mercifully different from the conventional love story’s, surprising us with gleeful relish and bursts of sheerest gratification.”
–Anna Shapiro, author of Living on Air
“In this coming of a certain age novel, the longings and desires of a middle-aged daughter are as bountiful as those of Emma Bovary. If Douglas Sirk and Agatha Christie went on a writing junket to Japan, they might return with this quietly seductive novel, in which Minae Mizumura’s heroine uses her mother’s inheritance to compose a new life story for herself.”
–Judith Pascoe, Professor of English, University of Iowa
“In this loving homage to Japan’s century-long tradition of serialized fiction, Mizumura has taken all the classic themes of the grand newspaper novel–sibling rivalries, unhappy marriages, family inheritances–and woven them into a moving tale for our own day.”
–Michael K. Bourdaghs, Professor of Modern Japanese Literature, University of Chicago

“This is a harrowing novel that truly hits home. Caregiving, marital infidelity, economic uncertainty, the threat of old age and enfeeblement: all the reasons why ‘it’s tough being a woman’ are here on full display. But there is nothing cut-and-dried about the story, which offers plenty of common ground for a positive evaluation of life, with sympathetic episodes that affirm the dignity of women. The novel can be read as the saga of three generations of women, and as a model case that gives food for thought concerning caregiving, divorce, and women’s self-reliance. . . This book’s answer to the ultimate question of which to choose, love or money, is at once utterly contemporary and profound.” —ASAHI SHIMBUN

“The sentence ‘Today my mother died’ resonates with the alienation of Albert Camus’ The Stranger, and passages on women’s self-reliance offer echoes of Virginia Woolf’s essay ‘A Room of One’s Own.’ In the second half, towards the end as the protagonist Mitsuki confronts her husband’s betrayal and her own impending old age, the scene shifts to a lakeside hotel and the story takes on some of the elements of an Agatha Christie novel. Who will the ‘killer’ prove to be? The longing for soaring love and the graphic trials of caregiving and married life. The beauty of ideals a­­nd the ugliness of reality. This exquisite novel, though accepting of the world’s heavy shackles, is touched throughout by a soft, fresh breeze.”MAINICHI SHIMBUN

“Through the lives of various women, the novel consistently portrays two issues: money and love. The intensity and brilliance of the execution fills me with awe.” MAINICHI SHIMBUN

“The contents are fascinating, the work gripping. Human longings and hatreds; beauty and ugliness; grace and vulgarity; money problems, family lineage, and a marriage gone sour; sickness and old age—the author’s adeptness in dealing fully with a plethora of such themes is simply scary.” YOMIURI SHIMBUN

“The features of each character rise in the mind’s eye, due to descriptions of great expressiveness and clarity that fully showcase the author’s polished sensibility and superb command of language. The novel is over 500 pages long, but reads so quickly that one is impatient to turn every page.” —YOMIURI SHIMBUN

“Inheritance from Mother is the author’s first newspaper novel. She instructed herself to ‘keep it entertaining by all means.’ There is no shortage of techniques to draw the reader’s interest, including the insertion of scenes in the style of an Agatha Christie mystery.” —SA­­NKEI SHIMBUN

“Minae Mizumura’s Inheritance from Mother: A Newspaper Novel is the kind of masterpiece destined to emerge in today’s aging society. Already exhausted from caring for her aged mother, the protagonist is beset by a new trial: her husband’s infidelity. Tragedies of modern society are never treated as social issues but are presented throughout in the language of the individual, which is the language of literature. This page-turner is both thought-provoking and emotionally satisfying.” —SHUKAN SHINCHO

 “This book depicts the hilarity, pain, and absurdity of life in crystal-clear prose. Perhaps most moving of all are the agonizing life-and-death struggles of the people whom Mitsuki encounters at the hotel in Hakone where she travels alone after her mother’s death. There for the first time she­ contemplates divorce head-on: ‘After giving the matter a great deal of thought, she decided that even if she did not go through with the divorce, facing squarely the fact that her marriage had been a failure was the least she could do to live out her life with dignity.’” —SHUKAN GENDAI

 “The author’s voice is mature and captivating, conveying sly humor, a sense of the ridiculous, and a quiet resignation that lend the story dignity and grace. On finishing the novel, the reader has a renewed appreciation of just how engrossing a novel can be.”SHUKAN BUNSHUN

 “In this superb novel the author, who is also a student of early modern Japanese literature, has assimilated novelistic conventions nurtured since the Meiji period, creating a seamless literary whole.” —BUNGEI SHUNJU

 “The author’s rich vocabulary and power of expression are overwhelming, her character portraits so spot-on that the characters are easy to visualize. Other literary works pop up here and there, an irresistible touch. The reason for the subtitle ‘A newspaper novel’ becomes clear in the second half. This is an eminently satisfying read, skillfully interweaving the warp of the story with the woof of description.” —HON NO ZASSHI  

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