"The best of the best from this year's bountiful harvest of uncommonly strong offerings ... Deeply original." —O, The Oprah Magazine
“A spare, stunning, elegiac gem of a book. Milena Michiko Flašar writes with a poet’s clarity of language and vision, probing deeply below the surfaces of familiar Japanese stereotypes … to tell a compassionate and insightful story of dysfunction, despair and friendship.”—Ruth Ozeki, author of A Tale for the Time Being
“The quiet reflection of this jewel of a novel is revelatory, redemptive and hypnotic until the last word.”—Kirkus Reviews
“Flašar’s exquisite, finely wrought novel is both a prose poem and a parable about how we deflect, defer and disconnect from life, and what is needed before we can bravely embrace it again.”
— Monique Truong, author of The Book of Salt and Bitter in the Mouth
"A tender, melancholy book of great linguistic beauty and clarity. A flawless novel."—Süddeutsche Zeitung
"With high artistry . . . this seductive beauty is also strangely religious: the book treats life with an almost Buddhist serenity."—Der Spiegel
Twenty-year-old Taguchi Hiro has spent the last two years of his life living as a hikikomori—a shut-in who never leaves his room and has no human interaction—in his parents’ home in Tokyo. As Hiro tentatively decides to reenter the world, he spends his days observing life around him from a park bench. Gradually he makes friends with Ohara Tetsu, a middle-aged salaryman who has lost his job but can’t bring himself to tell his wife, and shows up every day in a suit and tie to pass the time on a nearby bench. As Hiro and Tetsu cautiously open up to each other, they discover in their sadness a common bond. Regrets and disappointments, as well as hopes and dreams, come to the surface until both find the strength to somehow give a new start to their lives. This beautiful novel is moving, unforgettable, and full of surprises. The reader turns the last page feeling that a small triumph has occurred.