Charming is the best word to describe People From My Neighbourhood, the new book by Hiromi Kawakami, the author of The God of Bears. It is tiny, in a pale pink colour like a blossoming cherry tree on a little model of a typical Japanese neighbourhood. Inside one will find a series of flash fiction – very short stories about the people from an extraordinary neighbourhood and their similarly unusal customs.
Every short story is dedicated to a particular character or characters – among them there are: a headmaster of a dog trainer school, Grandpa Shadow, Dolly and Romi who come back to the country from America, the owner of “Love” bar… People and places reocurr in the following texts, so before reaching the last page, one becomes close-knit to this quirky every-day reality.
Everything seems unusual – starting from the group of “welcomers” who lash out with a mob to say hi to an innocent passerby, through a lottery in which the winner has to take home a neighbour’s child, ending up with the warnings about the lack of gravity. With everything that is going on, the ghosts and mysterious creatures appearing in the neighbourhood, seem pretty normal.
Same as in The God of Bears, Hiromi Kawakami fits maximum content into a short form. People From My Neighbourhood can be read an interpreted in multiple ways – as funny, slightly surreal stories, little parody of a small-town community or a tale about how even the most ordinary neighbours and their little quirks can blow out of proportion in our childhood memories. However one reads these stories, the time spent with the book should be lovely.