Kitchen is two stories. The first is the novella Kitchen which is a delightful surprise and the second is a long short story called moonlight shadow.
Banana Yoshimoto wrote Kitchen when she was only 24 and Moonlight Shadow was written prior to that. Moonlight shadow reads like talented juvenalia and is a fairly standard magical realism work. It deals with similar themes to Kitchen and is most interesting in how it relates to Kitchen.
Kitchen is extremely good. Surprisingly good and is almost a five star book. It is hard to tell if it is a case of lightning striking once or if Yoshimoto's later work will be of the same standard. A review in the front of my copy compares Yoshimoto's style to Haiku's and surprisingly that is quite informative. Especially in Kitchen her writing is very stripped down. Her sentences structures are simple short and dense with meaning, but the overall tone is very light and airy. Her primary theme is death, grief, loss and survival. She manages the task of being honest and real, while being airy and light. The style of the book forces you to slow your reading down and read at a pace more suitable to poetry.
Yoshimoto, also has a transgender character. She is a good character but its not so insightful there, although it did totally humanize a transgender character in 1988. Her style and characters are quirky, but I thought the whole thing very sharp and clever and real. There is a sort of romance or non-romance in the work which is very well done.
I had meant to read Kitchen for a long time, but it was far down my priority list. I read it on a whim and was very taken with it. Because she is so young, its hard to tell if this is a case of everything coming together once or if she is one of the best writers around. I'm looking forward to finding out.