In a novel of female endurance and obligation, Mitsuki, the 'semi-neglected daughter' of the Katsura family, must not only bear the lion’s share of caring for her elderly parents, but must also steel herself for the failure of her marriage.
...[a] gorgeous and intimate novel ... One of the most entrancing things about this novel is that it retains the rhythm of a serial even in bound-book form ... Mizumura’s writing is urgent yet thorough, and her plot — with its multiple divorces and infidelities, scheming, legends and deaths — just short of overwrought. But her prose is controlled and as dense as poetry ... Part 2 is a wandering, sometimes frustrating sequel to the very straightforward Hemingwayesque quality of Part 1. Yet so worth it. The resolution of Inheritance From Mother is natural and satisfying in myriad ways.
At 446 pages, the novel can be baggy on occasion, but there is admirable ambition in the way Mitsuki’s story expands into a much larger portrait of middle-class anomie in a Japan still reckoning with its past and the paradoxes — and fraught compromises — of its identity ... In Mizumura’s novel, the new world may be constructed a thousand times, but invariably it reaches back into the old, the kind of inheritance that just may emanate darkness — as well as light.
Mizumura’s realism embraces family dynamics and bodily decline, both of which are anatomized without a hint of sentimentality. But it is perhaps most evident in her candid treatment of money ... Mizumura depicts the ordeals of middle age with intelligence and empathy. The very modesty of Mitsuki’s needs is demoralizing ... The reader shares in Mizumura’s sheer pleasure in invention as she raises narrative possibilities and discards them, changes focus and atmosphere, and adds new characters to keep the momentum going ... Even readers who have no particular interest in that literary history will find in Mizumura a fascinating example of how a writer can be at the same time imaginatively cosmopolitan and linguistically rooted.