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MR KATŌ PLAYS FAMILY by Milena Michiko Flašar
Translated by Caroline Froh
Things aren’t going too well for Mr Katō. Recently retired, he wanders the local streets and parks trying to figure out what’s next. His kids rarely get in touch. He is struggling to navigate a marriage that has long depended on his daily absence. It all looks bleak until one day, while walking through a cemetery, he meets Mie standing by a grave. She is just doing her job, she tells him. Playing family. People hire her to fill in for missing relatives. And she’s looking to expand her business.
As Mr. Katō goes from one assignment to the next he not only finds a sense of purpose but also learns some sweet lessons about family, friendship and life. Flašar is oft compared to Murakami but this struck me as more charming and whimsical (and not even vaguely misogynist), much like Muriel Barbery’s The Elegance of the Hedgehog or something by Fredrik Backman. Moreover, it possessed a filmic quality that, at times, reminded of Amelie. With its light philosophical overtones and unabashed positivity, Mr Katō Plays Family is a lovely read. Definitely check it out if lovely is your thing.
Mr Katō Plays Family by Milena Michiko Flašar (Tr. Caroline Froh)
Forge/Tor Books, 2023