Synopses & Reviews
After losing her beautiful younger sister, a celebrated actress, to suicide, Sakumi falls down a flight of stairs and loses her memory to a head injury. Struggling to remember whom she loves and what she lost, she embarks on a unique emotional journey, accompanied at times by her dead sister's lover, at others by her clairvoyant kid brother. This is the story of Sakumi's remarkable expedition through grief, dreams, and shadows to a place of transformation and the discovery of a soul.
About the Author
Banana Yoshimoto was born in 1964. Her bestselling first book, Kitchen, has sold millions of copies worldwide. It was followed by N.P., a novel, and Lizard, her first collection of short stories. Her books have won numerous prizes in her native Japan and abroad. Kitchen, N.P., and Lizard are all available from Washington Square Press. She lives in Tokyo.
Reading Group Guide
The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for discussion of Banana Yoshimoto's Amrita.
We hope that these ideas will enrich your discussion and increase your enjoyment of the book.Discussion Questions
- Banana Yoshimoto has been hailed as a voice for a global Generation X, and a writer whose appeal is not limited by international boundaries. What seems to you exotic or foreign in Amrita? In what ways do you think Amrita is universal?
- Ghosts, telepathy, visions, and dreams all play an important role in Amrita. Through Yoshio, and later through her friendship with Saseko and Kozumi, Sakumi comes to see extrasensory events as a normal part of life. How does Yoshimoto make these extraordinary perceptions seem natural and convincing -- or not?
- Sakumi's mother once asks Sakumi, "Why don't you just stop and allow your own beautiful light to shine?" What prevents her from doing this?
- How does Sakumi's grief over Mayu's death and over her own memory loss relate to her realization that there's "a spot in a person's mind that expands what is lost to a size hundreds of times bigger than that which is obtained"?
- On the trip to Saipan, Sakumi finds a new way of living and being. Discuss her discoveries there and their long-term significance for her.
- Living on the beach in Saipan, Saseko and Kozumi have opted out of the pressures and aspirations of life in Japan. Why don't Ryuichiro and Sakumi follow in their footsteps? How does the author view the benefits of life in Saipan versus Japan?
- Saseko tells Sakumi, "I was born for only one reason, and that's why I keep going. I'm here just to be happy." Compare this view to Sakumi's great-grandfather's "checkpoints for life."
- With her detailed descriptions of daily life, Yoshimoto subtly points out many of the small, everyday things that are valuable supports for living. She identifies hard rock music as an important support for Kozumi, and a favorite novel by Truman Capote as an aid to Ryuichiro. Do Sakumi and her family have any such supports? What habits or preferences support you in your own life, and what ones do you notice in the lives of your friends?
- Ryuichiro states that "the most inspiring [people] are those who've found a way to balance everyday life along with their amazing talents....eating and sleeping every day, just like you and me." After being disturbed by his emerging psychic abilities, Yoshio starts to achieve this balance. What about Sakumi? How much do you value this balance?
- Yoshimoto reveals at the end of the novel that the word "amrita" comes from a Sanskrit word meaning "divine nectar." Describe what you think this divine nectar is in the novel.