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March 20, 1994|CHARLES SOLOMON

KITCHEN by Banana Yoshimoto, translated from the Japanese by Megan Backus (Washington Square Press: $8; 152 pp.). The title novella and the short story "Moonlight Shadow" offer American readers a pleasant introduction to this popular young writer. After the death of her grandmother, Mikage, the narrator of "Kitchen," finds herself "tied by blood to no creature in this world. I could go anywhere, do anything. It was dizzying." Lonely and dislocated, Mikage allows herself to be adopted by Yuichi, a shy boy, and his glamorous mother. Their comfortable menage proves to be far less conventional than it initially appears, but the mismatched trio settles into a curious domesticity that redefines the notion of home. "Shadow," which describes the emotions of a young woman learning to bid farewell to her dead finance, represents a modern retelling of a traditional ghost story.

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