Ms Ice Sandwich by Mieko Kawakami

Unlike Breasts and Eggs and Heaven, Ms Ice Sandwich makes for a perfectly breezy read. This short story is narrated by an unnamed boy who is in 4th grade. His mother seems always too busy to pay attention to him and his elderly grandmother is dying. Unlike the protagonist of Heaven, the narrator in Ms Ice Sandwich seems to feel at ease at school and amongst his peers, in particular, a girl nicknamed Tutti. However, the person our protagonist is most drawn to is ‘Ms Ice Sandwich’, the woman who prepares sandwiches at the counter in his local supermarket. Ms Ice Sandwich, who is cool and seemingly unaffected by her surroundings, possess the kind of customer service skills that rival my own (ie. poor). Our boy, who is fascinated by her blue eyelids, her eyes, her face, and her aloofness, purchases sandwiches from her just so he can observe her more closely. His crush on her was very sweet. The casual tone of his narration, which often emphasised his age and naïveté, made his voice all the more authentic. His friendship with Tutti made for some very funny and endearing scenes, their film session in particular (that bit with Tutti replicating a certain sequence was a real gem).

While the story did have the usual amount of navel-gazing I have come to expect in a work by Kawakami, here it didn’t feel out of place or unnecessary. If anything, it effectively conveys our narrator’s feelings (his crush on Ms Ice Sandwich, his sadness over his grandmother) and youth.
If you are looking for a quick and uplifting tale of first love you should definitely consider giving Ms Ice Sandwich a try.

my rating: ★★★½

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