From May 2018 to Apr 2019, the Japan Times ran a very informative and interesting “Works by Japanese Women” series which highlighted “some of the lesser read in translation but equally deserving female writers”. Kaori Ekuni was one of them.
In God’s Boat, Yoko was married to her former college professor when she met her “true love” who was also married. They had a “bone melting love affair” and the result was the little girl Soko.
When her true love suddenly disappeared, Yoko divorced the professor and left Tokyo. She and her little daughter started their journey in life on a “God’s boat”, moving from one city to the next after living for about a year in each city. Yoko didn’t want to settle down in any place, for fear of not being able to “catch” her true love.
Wherever she went, Yoko worked as a piano teacher by day, and a bar waitress at night. She daydreamed about her love and made up stories to tell Soko about her perfect father.
The novel was narrated by two unreliable narrators, Yoko and Soko, interchangeably in each chapter. Soko had never met her father, yet she claimed her mother’s stories were not true.
Ekuni’s writing is simple yet very captivating. Her writing draws you in with charming details of daily life, a maddening you-can-die-for love, and the touching and tense mother-daughter relationship.
Filled with lots of beach scenes and sweating hot summer days, God’s Boat is a perfectly light and entertaining summer read, even though the ending is vague, be it happy or devastating depending on how you interpret it.
“Summer is a special time.
Every one of my cells has preserved its memories. And summer is when each one of them is suddenly awakened, trembling restlessly.”
By Kaori Ekuni