Book Review: Ms. Ice Sandwich by Mieko Kawakami

Title: Ms. Ice Sandwich

Author: Meiko Kawakami

Genre: Literary Novella

Number of Pages: 92

Rating: B

Recommended?: Yes

When I read this book I didn’t even realize it was by the same author who did Heaven. Unlike that one, this novella was surprisingly cute and wholesome. It’s an extremely short read and I finished it in one sitting. The unnamed protagonist is a thoughtful young boy who has a huge crush on the woman who sell sandwiches at the local grocery store, who he calls Ms. Ice Sandwich.

She’s chilly and unfriendly to customers, but he is infatuated with her, drawing many portraits trying to capture her likeness. His mom is a hippie new-age type and his grandmother is old and weak, without much time left. The protagonist is eager to see Ms. Ice Sandwich at any opportunity, even though he barely ever talks to her. Then some people say nasty, derogatory things about her, particularly because of plastic surgery she’s gotten.

The protagonist is confused by their comments and it makes him doubt his own attraction to her. He starts hanging out with a girl nicknamed Tutti (he called her that because she once farted in her class in front of everyone and it smelled fruity- unfortunately, it stuck.) Despite their inauspicious beginning, the two become close and Tutti introduces her to her interest in watching crime movies and doing dramatic reenactments of the gunfight scenes.

The relationship between the narrator and Tutti is the cutest part of the book; his relationship with Ms. Ice Sandwich is secondary since he mostly admires her from afar. I also enjoyed the main character’s innocent, endearing narrative voice. No high drama here, certainly none of the intensity of Heaven. Just a nice story about growing up and dealing with the inevitable changes that go along with it.

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