Set in 1970s Japan, this tender and poetic novel about a young, single mother struggling to find her place in the world is an early triumph by a modern Japanese master.
Alone at dawn, in the heat of midsummer, a young woman named Takiko Odaka departs on foot for the hospital to give birth to a baby boy. Her pregnancy, the result of a brief affair with a married man, is a source of sorrow and shame to her abusive parents. For Takiko, however, it is a cause for reverie. Her baby, she imagines, will be hers and hers alone, a challenge that she also hopes will free her. Takiko's first year as a mother is filled with the intense bodily pleasures and pains that come from caring for a newborn. At first she seeks refuge in the company of other women--in the hospital, in her son's nursery--but as the baby grows, her life becomes less circumscribed as she explores Tokyo, then ventures beyond the city into the countryside, toward a mountain that captures her imagination and desire for a wilder freedom.