Cover Image: Heaven

Heaven

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Member Reviews

This melancholic book squeezes your heart and rarely lets go. The bullying and ‘Eyes’ non-reaction to it were almost too much (I’m still wondering if it was just the bullying or the passivity that were getting to me and what does that say about me?). Thankfully we had moments of relief through ‘Eyes’ and Kojima’s friendship and conversations. Their conversations didn’t read like that of two 14 year olds, but rather these long existential/philosophical debates and explanations on morality and power. Kawakami makes us think about victimhood, suffering, and empowerment. What does it mean to be different? How do we find meaning in the brutality of life? Are humans inherently selfish? All of this is told through minimalistic, beautiful prose. For me, the ending scene was the most beautiful.


Thank you Europa Editions for the ARC.
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I'm giving this book 3 stars because I think it was good, but just not my taste. I enjoyed that the story jumped into action right away, and it was a very interesting and specific character study. Certain elements of the narrative were interesting enough to keep me reading. All in all, I appreciated the book but I know it just isn't the kind of book I love to read.
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A hard but beautifully written book about two children with a budding secret friendship dealing with daily abuses from their bullies. Some passages are heartbreaking and there is few moments of hope.
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Heaven tells the story of a teenager with a lazy eye who gets bullied in school to the point where he contemplates suicide. One day, he gets a letter from Kojima, a classmate whom he had never talked to but who also got bullied repeatedly by the other girls. They keep sending each other letters and develop a secret friendship over the course of a few months. During this time however, they change. Kojima develops a philosophy of suffering to an extent that it becomes her main purpose in life, while the boy sees a glimpse of hope that might curb his misery.

Mieko Kawakami portrays 14-year-olds with a great deal of depth. The antagonists are multi-faceted. They're not just popular among other students because of their looks or attitude, they're academically gifted too. They're very smart, yet compassionless. The protagonists are not mere victims either, for Kojima the pain has meaning, ending it would mean admitting defeat, increasing it intentionally makes her feel in control. 

The language is sharp yet beautiful, particularly in the context of the main character's double vision. What makes this story a great read is that it's ultimately about the the choices one can make when facing the unfairness of life.

Thanks to Netgalley for providing the free copy to review!
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This book is a Camus style meditation on bullying, pain, weakness, and meaning that I loved every second of. The minimalistic prose that is characteristic of Breasts & Eggs and other contemporary Japanese literature does wonders for the narrator’s voice. Like B&E, this book sets out to challenge and answer a societal tension—in this case the hells that come with childhood and the imbalance of power inherent in humanity. Kawakami blows up the most basic aspects of existence in order to reveal their hidden dramas. I’m always inspired by her work. This book solidified her for me as a contemporary master.
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Breast and eggs was an intense gripping read and so is Heaven.A book about bullying can be difficult to read but this one is so well written it kept me turning the pages.Looking forward tomorr translated books by this author,#netgalley#europabooks
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Similar to Kawakami's earlier Breast and Eggs, this novel about bullying is slow and meandering.  The violence portrayed here is viceral and worth a trigger warning.  Ultimately, her glacial pacing and lack of plot overshadows the moments of beautiful prose that is contained within her writing for me.
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Mieko Kawakamj is new to me, but after reading her latest, I’ll surely be picking up Breasts and Eggs. Heaven is a heart-wrenching story of a middle school boy, nicknamed Eyes by the bullies at school. Through friendship with a girl named Kojima, who is also bullied at school, our main character finds understanding and love. This is a deep dive into questions about morality, purpose, relationships, and perseverance. Kawakami does a brilliant job of giving agency to these children characters, never diminishing their situations and always allowing them to be complex, emotional, real individuals. Highly recommended. Thanks to Europa and NetGalley.
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This was a gripping read told from the point of view of a fourteen-year-old student who is being perpetually bullied. It’s the way things have been and the way he assumes it will be. There’s a passivity to him about the violence both emotional and physical that he has to endure. But something is awakened inside of him when he gets to know one of his classmates, Kojima, a young woman who is also being bullied, who begins leaving him empathetic notes. The prose is succinct and sparse, but emotional and compelling. The friendship feels authentic. Heaven explores the territory of being bullied through new terrain.
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Mieko Kawakami tells a story of young adolescent bullying in this new novel. Between horrific descriptions of violence and bullying at the hands of other children, she slips in philosophical musings about the meaning of bullying, if indeed there is one, and transcendence from one's circumstances. I found the scenes of bullying visceral and hard to read and it unfortunately colored my own reception to the book. While I appreciated the questions she brought up and some of the storytelling examining the main character's relationships to his one friend and to his stepmother, I felt that the scenes of senseless bullying overshadowed the book to the point that I could not find a purpose to the plot. I think this may be a very intentional choice on her part, as it illustrates some viewpoints and philosophy of a nihilist view on life, but it didn't make it a particularly enjoyable reading experience for myself.
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I love Japanese literature. When it’s good...my mind and emotions are equally invested.
Both my mind and emotions were invested in “Heaven”. 

Mieko Kawakami is new to me, but I just purchased “Breasts and Eggs”....and will look forward to reading it too.

There are stressful and devastating circumstances in ‘Heaven’. 
A young boy is bullied at school. 
He was kicked, punched, forced to swallow pond water, toilet water, a goldfish, scraps of vegetables from a rabbit cage, and eat chalk. 
Pretty awful horrific abuse.

One day... this young boy (our narrator) receives a note from a girl named Kojima. Girls call her “Hazmat”.
     “She was short, with kind of dark skin. She never talked at school. Her skirt was always wrinkled, and her uniform looked old. The girls in the class picked on her for being poor and dirty”. 
Kojima wanted this boy ( called “Eyes” by his classmate bullies)...to meet him after school. She left the location in her note.
We never learn ‘Eyes’ proper name...but we do learn the names of a couple other class bullies. 
Ninomija was the bully ringleader.  Every since elementary school he was the best athlete, had all A’s in school, and had that special- type of aura that his friends followed.  

When Eyes receives his first few notes  from Kojima....he worried it might be a prank - one of Ninomija’s.  
     “I never lost sight of the possibility that this might be a trap, but something in those notes made me feel safe, however briefly, even with all my distress”. 

So they meet.  

Kojima and Eyes continue leaving each other notes. It was their only source of pleasure. 
When school let out they made plans to see each other over the summer. 
Kojima wanted to show him ‘Heaven’....(a painting in a museum)
     “ A painting of two lovers eating cake in a room with a red carpet and a table.”
Kojima tells Eyes that something was really, really sad. But they make it through. That’s why they could live in perfect harmony. 
“After everything, after all the pain, they made it here. It looks like a normal room, but it’s really Heaven”. 

There is so much brilliance in this novel. Not only do the pages fly but these unique characters make this a compelling novel. 
Meiko chooses her words with careful love and arranges them to exquisite effect.....
    “I don’t really know how to say it, but it’s like something’s wrong, all the time, and I can’t do anything to stop it. It’s always there. When I’m at home, when I’m at school.  
But, sometimes, things can be good. Even too good. Like when I’m talking to you or writing notes. Those things are really good for me. I start feeling like everything‘s okay. And that makes me happy. But, know what? That feeling like everything‘s wrong and this feeling like everything‘s okay, I guess a part of me wants to believe that neither one of them is, like, natural . . . 
I guess I want to feel like they’re both exceptions to the rule”. 

This is an utterly absorbing - thought provoking - novel.


Thank you Netgalley, Europa Editions, and Meiko Kawakami ( I’m a new fan)
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I really enjoy Kawakami's writing and I'm looking forward to seeing more of her work being translated. This short novel about school bullying features strong writing, but also some tough to read passages concerning bullying
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I truly never envisioned being so torn apart and equally brought back together by a short novella about bullying.  Heaven is truly an eccentric gem of a book for anyone – especially those who have ever been bullied.  The message Mieko portrays is that of a lonesome middle school boy with a lazy eye coming into his own and a message of hope for those struggling to understand and love themselves truly and wholly. 

The story is told from the perspective of a 14-year-old boy who is ruthlessly bullied and is only understood by another female classmate who also has to deal with the same torment.  Because of their friendship, certain events transpire that make him understand himself more fully – which ultimately culminates in him making a life decision that will change him indefinitely.  Often times throughout the reading, I found myself distraught and angry with the central character as he refused to ever defend himself against his aggressors; instead allowing himself to be constantly abused and even shunned publicly.  As you come to the novella’s finale, you come to understand it was all part of his authentic evolution. 

If this was not a unique and utterly Japanese take on growth and self-love, I don’t know what is.  Moreover, the writing itself is very poetic and illustrates perfect examples of how Japanese literature juxtaposes the beauty of nature and horror that humanity can be. With every line Ms. Kawakami writes, poetry seems to flow freely and earnestly.  I can only imagine how much more beautiful these words are in its original Japanese text.  This is definitely a must read and possibly already one of my favorites of the entire 2021 book releases.
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One day at school, "Eyes" finds a letter in his desk, asking him to be friends. It's not signed. He has no idea whom it could be from, and deeply suspects it's a trick from the bullies who've been picking on him, because he has no friends and knows nobody could be interested in him.

"Heaven" is a graphically violent story about bullying in middle school. Some suspension of disbelief is necessary; not because the violence is too incredible to be believed (it's credible enough), nor because the students are too mature (teens can have deep thoughts), but because you get the occasional scene that defies belief, such as a character launching into a long and deep monologue about the psychology of people and bullies when he's asked to consider it for the first time.

That being said, it's an interesting story. "Eyes" has a lazy eye, which not only makes it harder for him to see properly, but also makes him bullied by Ninomiya, Momose and their group of friends. They make him do chores, humiliate him, and beat him, and Eyes lives in terror of them, but finds himself unable to do anything.

But Kojima, the other bullied student, a girl who's always a dirty and unkempt, decides they need to be friends and writes him a flurry of letters. After they meet in person, a friendship sparks up between them.

Kojima is an interesting character: imaginative and introspective, she confesses that her dirty appearance is a way to still feel connected to her poor father, whom her mother divorced and looks down upon. As the story progresses, she starts seeing their bullying from a philosophical point of view, and believes that she and Eyes are superior not just to their bullying peers, but to everyone else who stands by, doing nothing.

After Eyes takes a greater beating than usual, and has his nose broken, something changes in Kojima, and she gradually becomes more and more fervent in her beliefs that everything has meaning, while he doesn't know what to think, especially when faced with the opposing view that nothing has meaning and his being bullied is purely accidental.

The story is both about ideas and the deeper causes of bullying, and about the effects of constant aggression, with an odd and powerful ending.

Many thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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There me be a point burried somewhere deep within this book but its hidden in the sheer oddness of the prose.

What could have been a powerful story about bullying fell flatter than a deflated pancake. It's all quite pointless and has no read resolution. 

The characters' personality was more wooden than Lincoln's cabin and pacing was painfully slow.
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(My dudes the length is still a novella, there is no shame in it being shorter!) The publisher was kind enough to pass me an ARC, and I was extremely excited to read this, having recently finished Breast and Eggs. We get the point of view of a young boy being bullied in middle school, a pretty standard subject in Japanese literature, but Kawakami does an amazing job with the subject. Part of it is that we get our main character bonding with another bullied girl, and how their friendship plays out over the course of the novella. The ending is incredibly well done, and handles several things that could come off as exploitative incredibly well. They apparently have acquired another book from her, and I can’t wait to read the next one.
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This is a novel that could very easily fall into the lure of the saccharine, the precocious narrator who is more logical and even-headed than the adults in the room, always pointing out what we fail to see through our all-encompassing Adultness (which makes idiots out of all). But it navigates the border between childish and adults things admirably. This is a painful subject, and I've never actually read a novel before about school bullying. The events seem so extreme reading it, but I have memories from childhood that make it definitively plausible. But the novel was lifted up by sharp, incisive characters whose labored efforts to find beauty in pain are riveting. The only character whose dialogue I had trouble with was the complicit Momose, but that was moreso his well-honed, overly-articulate nihilism than the words themselves. Still, I found his pronouncements had a discomforting simplicity. This novel challenged me to hone in on the intricacies at play in bullying, in being both the bully and the bullied. "Bullying" is a word that seems to have lost all effect today, a broad catchall term that simultaneously elicits our most carceral tendencies and stiff upper lip attitudes. Despite its violence, Heaven is gently unconventional in plot and philosophy. An introduction to Kawakami that has counted me as an instant fan.
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TW: bullying, graphic violence, suicidal thoughts

This book follows a young boy with a lazy eye who gets bullied in school every day. Through letters, he forms a friendship with another victim of massive bullying.

Wow, this was a lot rougher than expected. In the beginning, HEAVEN was a bit reminiscient of MS ICE SANDWICH, but that feeling went away soon. Its place took a weird melancholic, sad, but also hopeful feeling that was utterly shattered as the bullying gets rougher and rougher--you'll definitely need a trigger warning--or three. Bur despite the circumstances, our two characters never lost hope and went through all of this. Kawakami's writing was beautiful as ever, even in depicting very graphic violence.

This book also deals with thoughts about why bad things always seem to happen to certain people and why bullies so often are able to get away with this.

My verdict: Keep your eyes peeled for this one if you can stomach above mentioned topics!
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This book deals with a young boy that is bullied in school, and the hardships that it causes for him. But also the little pockets of happiness that he is able to find. In particular, the friendship that he develops with a girl in his class.

Like a lot of Japanese literature, this book had a tone of a disturbing, yet naive  view of the world. I enjoyed the simple but thoughtful prose and the philosophical conversations of two middle-graders in Japan. But at times I also found that, even though this was written for adults, the age of the characters made me feel disconnected from the story.
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A 14-year-old boy who is bullied everyday for having a lazy eye receives a letter one day in his desk at school. He discovers that his classmate, a girl named Kojima, who is also bullied, is the one who sent it. This action initiates a close friendship through letters and secret meetings, with the two discussing their pasts and why they believe they were chosen to be bullied. The bullying scenes are quite brutal, as a warning. Questions are raised throughout this slim novel about morality and power. Why are some people are able to follow through with certain actions? Why do certain things happen to some people? Heaven will leave you thinking and wanting more of Mieko Kawakami’s mesmerizing storytelling. 

Thank you to NetGalley and Europa Editions for providing me with an advance copy in exchange for a review.
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