November 22, 2021 9:46 AM EST

Following the massive international success of Mieko Kawakami’s 2020 novel Breast and Eggs, translators Sam Bett and David Boyd bring one of her earlier works to an eager English-language audience. Originally published in Japanese in 2009, Heaven is the heartbreaking story of a 14-year-old boy ruthlessly bullied by his peers and the unusual connection he makes with a girl named Kojima, who receives similar abuse from the girls in their class. The bulk of their friendship occurs via passed notes left in each other’s desks—Kojima makes the overture, with a note reading, “We should be friends.” The impact on the narrator’s life is monumental, not only because he has, for the first time, someone who might be considered a friend, but also because Kojima opens his mind to entirely new ways of understanding pain, strength and life.

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