Cold Enough for Snow

This slender volume‚Äôs cool, seemingly transparent prose draws the reader in immediately, but the situation is something less than straightforward. The novel  is narrated by a daughter who is taking her aging mother, whom she has not seen in some  time and who is possibly from Hong Kong, on a trip to Japan. The daughter is highly organized and competent, makes all the travel arrangements and handles all the details; one wonders if she is driven by a slight anxiety  The mother, by contrast, is largely passive; all her reactions seem damped down. Together they explore temples, museums, shops. The relationship remains an enigma; and yet, they watch each other, and at least once, have a brief but profound conversation.  One of the glories of the book is the attention to interiors, to objects, to weather, and to the subtlety of minute interactions, all exquisitely described.  Despite its economy, this novel produces a multiplicity of feeling: a beauty-induced serenity, a slight puzzlement and a small lick of anxiety.