Goodbye, Monsieur

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Goodbye, Monsieur
Author: Shoh Kataoka
Specifications: ISBN  978-4093864671
213 pages
13.3 x 18.8 cm / 5.3 x 7.5 in (WxH)
Category: Fiction
Publisher: Shogakukan Inc.
Tokyo, 2017
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A story of the friendship between a young man with a brain tumor who has only six months to live, and his pet plush-toy koala that not only moves but talks.

Seitarō Mori is 27 and works as a proofreader for a small publisher with only about ten employees. His mother Fumiko Mori, who raised him singlehandedly, was a children’s writer who had six books to her name when she died of a brain tumor at the age of 30. Seitarō was seven at the time. Before she died, Fumiko made a hand-sewn koala doll to keep her son company after she was gone. About a foot tall, the koala has a big nose and a distinctive mustache, and Seitarō names it Monsieur. Monsieur begins speaking and moving under his own power on the night Fumiko dies, which in effect makes the anniversary of her death his birthday. In the 20 years since, Seitarō has cultivated a lasting friendship with Monsieur without anyone around him finding out. For the first seven of those years, Fumiko’s father had taken care of him, but since being left without any remaining family by his grandfather’s death, Seitarō has been living off of Fumiko’s publishing royalties in the condominium apartment he inherited from her, with Monsieur his only company.

One spring day Seitarō gets a case of unstoppable hiccups. When he goes to see a doctor about it, he is diagnosed with a glioma of the brain, already at stage 4. It is the same cancer his mother had, and he’s given just six months to live. Monsieur tries to console him, but his despair is deep. He shows no interest in treatment, and quickly quits his job at the publisher.

Taking a cue from the film My Life without Me, Seitarō and Monsieur make a list of ten wishes they want to fulfill before Seitarō dies, writing them directly on the wall of the apartment with a felt-tipped pen. The story follows the two buddies’ bittersweet efforts to make each item on the list a reality.

First on the list is Seitarō’s wish to write a novel. Because of his mother, Seitarō aspired to be a novelist from an early age, but the idea of having to compete with others seemed distasteful, and he had set that dream aside in favor of working with other people’s manuscripts as a proofreader. Now, even as his headaches grow worse each day, he pours the story of his 20-year friendship with Monsieur into an autobiographical novel. Next on the list is Monsieur’s wish to play with a real kaola. Together they go to the zoo, but it is no easy feat to get into the koala enclosure. While at the zoo they meet Yumeko, an elementary school girl who is visiting on her own.

With Seitarō growing weaker and weaker five months after his cancer diagnosis, it is becoming increasingly clear that the last item on the list is unattainable: Monsieur’s wish to not let Seitarō die. In an effort to fulfill Monsieur’s wish, Seitarō begins pursuing treatments of every kind, but the cancer shows no sign of remission. Seitarō changes the last wish to “Find a new friend for Monsieur,” and his plan is to entrust Monsieur to Yumeko. Having assumed he would die with Seitarō, Monsieur resists the idea, but ultimately accepts it as his fate and goes to live with Yumeko. Seitarō checks into the hospital, and his all-too-brief life comes to a close.

A late-developing and artless young man who never even dated a girl in his 27 years must say goodbye to the one friend he has looked to for support throughout his life. The winning charm of the wise and endearing koala who loves karaoke will warm readers’ hearts.