Sunday, March 30, 2014

Storybook Friends

Getting back to Waiting for Godot, for a minute, one of these reasons I love that play so much is the characterization of Gogo.  He is, in my opinion, one of the finest friends ever written.  He is steadfast, supportive, open with his frustrations and joys, and never too exasperated with his friend to show he cares. 

It also got me thinking about the sort books I read and the kinds of friendships they depict.  Upon reflection it is clear that my favourite childhood reads fell into two patterns - those about isolated children and young adults making their own way in the world (and the people they met on their way) or families where siblings were not always friendly, much  less friends.  

I may not have done much to remedy that as I have grown up - I still find myself drawn to tales of strong-willed individuals, rather than books with ensemble casts of characters - but this past winter I treated myself to a wonderful tale of two young women and their extremely unlikely friendship: Kamikaze Girls, by Novalo Takemoto.
Indiebound bookstore link

The book is told by Momoko, a frilly and fluffy Lolita who wishes only a life with no bitterness about her ridiculous life in a rural backwater in Ibaraki prefecture.  While a few miles from Tokyo as the crow flies, she is a million miles away from both her spiritual home of Rococo-era France and the retail heart of Tokyo where the heavily petticoated fashions she lives for are found.  Thanks to her father's failures as a low-level gangster specializing in bootlegged fashions, she finds herself isolated in nowheresville with a small mountain of counterfeit goods, a broke father who can't support her fashion habit, and a ceaseless desire to maintain her lace-filled lifestyle.  

In a desperate bid for money she finds herself placing a classified ad to offer her father's cheap counterfeits for sale, and the only reply she accepts is from Ichigo, a student at a neighbouring high school, part time motorcycle mechanic, and proud member of Ibaraki's largest all-girl biker gang.  

The contrast between selfish, independent, devotee of all things sweet and light Momoko and Ichigo, whose loyalties to her gang don't stop when the last punch is thrown, are beautifully written.  The ultimate conflict comes when their lifestyles collide and loyalties, including Momoko's loyalty to her unattached self, are tested.  Well paced, a quick read without feeling rushed, these two would make excellent companions for your spring break holiday.    

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