Goodbye for Today

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Goodbye for Today
Author: Kaori Ishida
Specifications: ISBN  978-4309025780
222 pages
13.4 x 19.3 cm / 5.3 x 7.7 in (WxH)
Category: Fiction
Publisher: Kawade Shobo Shinsha, Publishers
Tokyo, 2017
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Kyōko lost her mother at the age of five. Her mother had been hospitalized shortly after giving birth to her and then went into long-term care, so Kyōko had never had the chance to be nursed or even held in her arms. And since she was taken to visit her mother only a few times a year, she had almost no recollection of her. Meanwhile, her father, a member of the Self-Defense Forces, was an earnest but unsophisticated and awkward man who put work before everything else, so in her early years Kyōko had been raised almost entirely by her paternal grandparents.

When Kyōko is in the second grade, her father marries Sumire, and she acquires a stepbrother who is one year older. Since work often keeps her father away from home, it is fortunate that Kyōko gets along well with her stepmother, and she plays with her stepbrother Kyōsuke as if they’ve always been brother and sister. But three years later, a debt collector appears at the house, and the following day Sumire disappears. Kyōsuke reveals that his mother went missing once before to escape debt collectors, and he had been sent to an orphanage as a result. Kyōko’s father decides to divorce Sumire, and the step-siblings become separated.

Years later, at age 25, Kyōko is working for a small trading company with just five employees—the owner, his two sons, and two office staff. When her father decides to marry a third time, she moves into her own apartment in a building called Castle Shirota. It is now the year 2000, five years after the Great Kobe Earthquake devastated the city where the story unfolds.

Kyōko is soon reunited for the first time in 14 years with her former stepbrother Kyōsuke, who happens to be friends with Kyōko’s next-door neighbor in Castle Shirota and is also helping out at a gay bar owned by a man living one floor above her. Kyōsuke begins visiting Kyōko regularly, and he’s always asking her for something to eat, but he does not move in with her. She worries about him because he shows no interest in finding proper work and seems to be involved with a shady crowd—though, thankfully, not the yakuza.

According to an old woman who has known Kyōsuke since he was an infant, his father Seiji had been a member of the local yakuza and had disappeared around the time Kyōsuke turned one year old. He had co-signed on a loan for a man he was indebted to, only to have the man skip town and leave him with the ¥10 million (about $100,000) debt to take care of. Seiji had then skipped town himself, which turned the debt collectors’ attention to Sumire. (It later comes out that Kyōko’s father put up money to repay half of the loan.)

Kyōsuke runs off with some proceeds that the yakuza have an interest in, but is apprehended by the police just three days later. Since he has a prior record, he is likely to receive a long sentence. But then he collapses while in custody and is diagnosed with an incurable condition. His sentencing is put on hold, and he is sent to a hospital under guard. Kyōko wants to visit Kyōsuke, but the owner’s second son has proposed to her and she fears it could jeopardize her wedding plans so she holds off. When she finally goes to see him after the wedding, she finds the Kyōsuke she always knew—an amiable, good-natured jokester who hardly seems like he could be a bad sort. She becomes acquainted with one of Kyōsuke’s guards, a veteran cop named Kashiwagi who has known Kyōsuke since he was a boy, and with his help, tracks down Sumire and goes to see her. Sumire, now apparently remarried to the owner of a failing toy store, fails to recognize Kyōko and seems to think she’s an insurance agent. Taken aback, Kyōko can’t bring herself to reveal who she is. Not long after this, Kyōsuke manages to sneak past Kashiwagi to escape from the hospital and disappear.

Individuals burdened with major emotional and psychological scars from the past struggle to support one another, however clumsily, as they all look to a brighter tomorrow. Kyōko and the cast of characters surrounding her are marvelously drawn in this debut work of first-time author Kaori Ishida.