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an adventure into the past with 'the premonition' by banana yoshimoto

Yayoi feels like she’s forgetting an important thing that happened to her in her childhood. It’s somewhere at the back of her mind, somewhere just out of reach. Every time she feels she is close to making the big discovery, something draws her back; fear? disbelief? apathy? ignorance?

I picked up this book with a personal need. Sometimes I too feel like there is something I have forgotten, something really important, something that can explain away why I feel so tired sometimes, why sometimes I feel like the sky is just above my head. I picked this book up like a manual instead of a means to escape. Here’s what I found.

Our main character Yayoi has strange abilities. Moreso when she was a child, she could predict the future with unnerving accuracy. Sometimes the house phone would ring and she would say it’s a person from Daddy’s work or someone called Yamamoto is calling and nearly every time, she’d be right. And her mother would look at her child with a mixture of awe and worry. In other words, Yayoi is special and everyone knows it, but one person who knows that for sure is her aunt Yukino.

As I travelled with Yayoi to find out the truth about her childhood, I was eagerly awaiting the answer, not just as a reader, but as a human. How do you shift the feeling that you are forgetting something important, something terrible even? As realisations that Yayoi and her aunt are connected more than she thinks and conversations continue to unravel, Yayoi finds the moment to ask the question that’s plagued her mind for years.

“There were no secrets left. In that moment, everything—the glow of the lamp, the color of the sky outside the window, and each passing drop of precious time—seemed to take on a new light.”

I found myself tearing up at some parts. As Yayoi recalled her childhood and started to have more solid thoughts about her past, it made me think of mine and the memories I had pushed away. After losing a parent, it becomes tricky to revisit the happy memories again because you know the inevitable. That happy child will become incredibly sad and there is nothing you can do to stop it.

Maybe these unnamed feelings weren’t something that I had forgotten but more so the things I was trying to forget. Perhaps that feeling I had hiding behind my eyes or camouflaged in my soul were memories trying to force themselves out at the forefront of my mind again, refusing to be forgotten.

I was transported into Yoshimoto’s dream-like prose, the descriptions of the passing mountains while on long, sleepy train rides with her brother and the swamp-like yet magical atmosphere surrounding her aunt’s house as well as the stylistic disarray of the interior felt like I was personally being invited in along for the ride.

I didn’t find my answers reading this novel. But what I did take from this is a sense of adventure. All the answers may be inside of us somewhere, but sometimes it takes a bit of turbulence to release them.

“Who cares what happens? At least it’ll be an adventure.”

If you feel like there are answers to be found, go and find them. Even if it turns out to be your mind playing tricks on you, what’s the harm in going to find out? If that means returning to a place of significance, travelling to talk to a specific person or just getting out of the house and seeing where you end up, you’re efforts will be rewarded. Even if it’s just a breath of fresh air to reset the lungs.

Whatever it may be, at least it will be an adventure.

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