BFTA Review: Banana Yoshimoto – Goodbye Tsugumi


Title: Goodbye Tsugumi
Author: Banana Yoshimoto
Grove Press
Rating: 4/5
Read for: Japanese Lit Challenge 4

Maria is the only daughter of an unmarried woman. She has grown up at the seaside alongside her cousin Tsugumi, a lifelong invalid, charismatic, spoiled, and occasionally cruel. Now Maria’s father is finally able to bring Maria and her mother to Tokyo, ushering Maria into a world of university, impending adulthood, and a “normal” family. When Tsugumi invites Maria to spend a last summer by the sea, a restful idyll becomes a time of dramatic growth as Tsugumi finds love and Maria learns the true meaning of home and family. She also has to confront both Tsugumi’s inner strength and the real possibility of losing her. (

I tried so hard to like Tsugumi. I really did. I wanted to like her as much as Maria did, but Tsugumi was mean for the sake of being mean, and she hid behind her illness, which makes it all worse. Really, I could understand forgiveness to a point–Tsugumi was a brat, especially when she was stuck in bed, but aren’t we all?

What I really thought was unforgiveable was her prank on Maria concerning her grandfather. Tsugumi pushes the bounds too far and despite apologizing, she still laughs in Maria’s face. I understand that Tsugumi is family, and sometimes we forgive and overlook things that you wouldn’t with others, but I guess I’m just not that tolerant, even when the person in question is ill.

I did, however, adore Yoko. She was pushed to the background so much that sometimes it didn’t feel like she was Tsugumi’s sister, but someone who had just a walk-on part in a play. But I liked her. She was honest and a true friend to Maria.

I think what bothered me most was Maria’s adoration of Tsugumi. Despite everything Tsugumi does to Maria, Maria still finds room to admire her. She constantly talks about how much life Tsugumi has; how much energy and passion. I just couldn’t get over how much I hated her. I did admire Maria, though, for her forgiveness. She eventually forgives Tsugumi for all the nasty things she does. it’s a strength I lack, I guess.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. I just couldn’t get past Tsugumi’s hateful attitude, despite how beautiful she is. The book itself is well-written. The complicated relationship between Maria and Tsugumi is conveyed so well that sometimes it’s like Maria is sitting beside you, telling you stories of Tsugumi’s antics; of her bravery and strength, sometimes even her rage. But what interested me most of all was how, despite everything Tsugumi does, how gullible she thinks Maria is, Maria often seems to know what Tsugumi is thinking.

Originally posted September 30, 2010


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