book cover of Mina\'s Matchbox
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Mina's Matchbox

A novel by

From the award-winning, psychologically astute author of The Memory Police, a hypnotic, introspective novel about an affluent Japanese family navigating buried secrets, and their young house guest who uncovers them.

“Yoko Ogawa is a quiet wizard, casting her words like a spell, conjuring a world of curiosity and enchantment, secrets and loss. I read
Mina’s Matchbox like a besotted child, enraptured, never wanting it to end.” —Ruth Ozeki, author of The Book of Form and Emptiness

In the spring of 1972, twelve-year-old Tomoko leaves her mother behind in Tokyo and boards a train alone for Ashiya, a coastal town in Japan, to stay with her aunt’s family. Tomoko’s aunt is an enigma and an outlier in her working-class family, and her magnificent home—and handsome foreign husband, the president of a soft drink company—are symbols of that status. The seventeen rooms are filled with German-made furnishings; there are sprawling gardens and even an old zoo where the family’s pygmy hippopotamus resides. The family is just as beguiling as their mansion—Tomoko’s dignified and devoted aunt, her German great-aunt, and her dashing, charming uncle, who confidently sits as the family’s patriarch. At the center of the family is Tomoko’s cousin Mina, a precocious, asthmatic girl of thirteen who draws Tomoko into an intoxicating world full of secret crushes and elaborate storytelling.

In this elegant jewel box of a book, Yoko Ogawa invites us to witness a powerful and formative interlude in Tomoko���s life. Behind the family's sophistication are complications that Tomoko struggles to understand—her uncle’s mysterious absences, her great-aunt’s experience of the Second World War, her aunt’s misery. Rich with the magic and mystery of youthful experience,
Mina’s Matchbox is an evocative snapshot of a moment frozen in time—and a striking depiction of a family on the edge of collapse.

Genre: Literary Fiction

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