The sentence: “It was strange at once to be so familiar yet so separated.” sums up this novel very well.
A novel about family, art and language. A meditative novel without much of a story. The narrator alternates thoughts about the nature of life with memories, sparse conversations with her mother and phone calls with her sister. The text has a form that does not seem to go anywhere. This makes the book easy to read, I think, but it is also easy to lose track in the book. For a reader who likes a book with a clear beginning and end, this book may be to vague. I found the book an easy read, but occasionally I feared loosing track. That did not happen but I could imagine how I would have abandoned the book if I was not firmly resolved to finish it.
The narrator is on a trip to Japan with her mother. The women do not meet very often because they live in different cities far apart. The narrator somewhere in Australia and the mother in Hong Kong. For the mother it is her first trip to Japan, for the daughter it is the second time. The readers follow the women on trips to museums, and during meals. The women talk very llittle. The narrator is touched by the art she sees, but she does not have the words to share these feelings with her mother. That had happened before to her when she wanted to talk with the father of her partner (a sculptor) about his work. The narrator wants to show Japan to her mother, but it seems to her that her mother understands Japan better than she herself does, in an intuitive way. The narrator has had more education than her mother and tries to share her knowledge with her mother but does not really succeed whereas her mother seems to have more understanding of the reality of Japan than the narrator, not by talking about it but just by being there and letting it happen to her. The narrator tries to catch experiences in words, her mother is content with the experience in itself.