"Blood ties seemed unrelated to how we were living," Sakumi, the young narrator of Amrita, begins portentously. The "we" of the family comprises a strange blend--Sakumi's mother, twice married (widowed and divorced); a telepathic younger brother; a cousin; and her mother's childhood friend. Grief over the tragic death of Mayu, Sakumi's flamboyant younger sister, binds them together. But this family tragedy is not the only obstacle to happiness and wholeness for Sakumi, who loses her memory in a fall. Her troubles lead to awareness, though, as memories gradually return, leading Sakumi to discover her own identity and move towards acceptance of her sister's death.
Banana Yoshimoto's first novel, Kitchen (1991), traversed the territory of love and loss. Its fabulous success in Japan and the U.S. had to do with her distinct sensibility, a contemporary voice arising from a tradition-conscious culture. Amrita also ventures through the minefield of familial loss, but with a style less driven by the bizarre interface of tradition and pop culture. [via]