Klara and the Sun
By Kazuo Ishiguro
Knopf, 9780593318171, March 2021, 320pp.
The Short of It:
Love, loneliness and loyalty are front and center in this story about friendship.
The Rest of It:
Klara spends her days at the store, rotating positions with others. Some days she is in the shop window and able to watch the busy people rushing past the shop, interacting with others and living their lives. Other days, she is moved to the back of the store. On these days, her only view is that of others in the store and she can’t help but yearn for more hours in the window. Hours where she can feel the sun’s warmth and personally experience its rejuvenating effect.
Klara is an AF, an Artificial Friend. Although there are newer models with more advanced features than what she can offer, Klara is spotted by Josie, a young girl and instantly, Josie is sure that Klara is the AF for her, but the two do not meet at that moment. The mother needs more convincing and so Klara, although hopeful to find a new home, is moved to the back of the store again.
Months pass and Klara has all but given up hope, but then there she is, Josie. Klara’s heart is bursting at the sight of her but she can’t help but notice that Josie doesn’t look well. So as Klara is taken to Josie’s home, she quickly realizes that Josie is a special girl and that not only will she be Josie’s best friend, she will also be the one to notice her rapid decline in health and be the one to do something about it.
What a story. It’s a little weird and sad and somehow manages to hit on all the things we are feeling now. Disappointment, loneliness, isolation, hope. What does it mean to be a friend to someone? How can you love a person when you are in fact a machine? What happens when your purpose conflicts with your heart?
You might think that it will be difficult to feel much while reading this story about what is essentially a robot but think twice. Remember that episode of the Twilight Zone, Sing the Body Electric? Bradbury wrote the script and it later became a story with the same name. Anyway, I felt all the emotions while watching that episode and I felt the same way here. Ishiguro presents an AF who is almost too human and I loved her. I loved her gentle observations and her willingness to sacrifice herself when needed. Truthfully, I am a little sad now as I just turned the last page not long ago. This story will sit with me for a long while.
If you are wondering about the title, it’s all explained in the story and probably represents many things but I will keep my thoughts to myself so that you can consider the meaning yourself.
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher.
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