Kajal Kapur posted under Book Review on 2023-08-03

"Heaven" by Mieko Kawakami takes us on an emotionally charged journey of the unnamed narrator who recounts the haunting memories of being bullied mercilessly by four boys at school, who paradoxically called themselves his friends. The torment endured for five long years, leaving scars that run deep. The novel serves as a reflection of the countless souls who may have suffered at the hands of bullies during their high school years. The narrative delves into the monstrosity of it all, the nightmares that haunt the victims, and the unexpected solace found in the most unlikely of connections. This is not an easy read, and the author doesn't shy away from the raw and gritty details. The bullies in the story continue to torment and exploit, finding new and cruel ways to exert their power. The protagonist, who also struggles with a lazy eye, endures unspeakable cruelty. But amid the darkness, a glimmer of hope emerges when he befriends Kojima, another classmate facing relentless bullying by a group of vicious girls. Their friendship blossoms through heartfelt exchange of notes, and their encounters are rare but profoundly impactful. Over a summer break, they visit an art museum, and Kojima wishes to introduce the narrator to her favourite painting titled "Heaven." The painting depicts men and women finding harmony and joy after enduring immense suffering. They never get around to witness the beauty of the painting while they continue to struggle through their shared pain. As the story unfolds, we witness the characters grappling with questions that arise from their shared suffering: What is the nature of suffering? When will it end? Why must they endure it? Set in early 1990s Japan, the novel skilfully captures the atmosphere of the school world during that time. The translation by Sam Bett and David Boyd is concise and to the point, allowing the prose to speak for itself. "Heaven" may initially seem like a young adult novel, but it transcends its categorisation, touching upon profound themes. It delves into the poignancy of growing up while navigating the turbulent waters of bullying. The book serves as a cathartic experience, evoking memories for many readers, and while it may not be easy to read, it opens a transformative pathway between fiction and life. As a reader I found myself reflecting on my own school experiences, revisiting painful memories that may have been long buried. This emotional impact is a testament to the power of Kawakami's storytelling, as she skilfully weaves a narrative that resonates deeply. "Heaven" by Mieko Kawakami is a poignant and thought-provoking novel that explores the devastating impact of bullying on young lives. The novel is a moving portrayal of the struggles faced by those who have been bullied, and it serves as a powerful reminder that even in the darkest of times, hope and compassion can shine through. ~*~ Get the book here: