The Thorn Puller by Hiromi Ito, translated by Jeffrey Angles [in Booklist]
“Sandwich generation” refers to adults responsible for both aging parents and growing children. Lauded Japanese poet and writer Hiromi Ito’s fictionalized alter-ego is stuck in a triple-decker. Above are her partially paralyzed mother in a geriatric clinic, her father struggling alone, and her third, 28-years-older husband. Below are three daughters, the youngest just 10, the middle struggling in college. Exacerbating the caregiving demands are 9,000 miles as Ito is pulled back and forth between her parents in Kumamoto, Japan, and California, her home for almost 20 years.
Originally serialized in Japan in 2006–7, when Ito was in her early fifties, her inviting autobiographical novel, presented with third-person chapter titles and first-person intimacy, arrives stateside smoothly translated and warmly introduced by professor and poet Jeffrey Angles.
Ito gained renown in the 1980s for candidly highlighting pregnancy, childbirth, and female sexuality in her poetry. Her chameleonic prose (each chapter ends with influences and inspirations) confronts mortality, cultural conflicts, religious comforts, and waning relationships, embellished with all manner of welcoming, unfiltered, surprisingly humorous honesty about the universally quotidian, from pimple-popping to good sex.
Published: 2007 (Japan), 2022 (United States)