Skip to main content

Book Review: Three Lives of Tomomi Ishikawa

Ben Constable has written a book about, well, Ben Constable. In Three Lives of Tomomi Ishikawa we are treated to a dark and psychologically gripping story of our protagonist, Ben Constable, and his friend Tomomi (who goes by the nickname Butterfly). The novel opens with Ben and Butterfly exchanging letters about a book that Ben plans to write. The rest of the novel details the experiences of Ben after he is notified of Tomomi’s death. The dialogue is clever and draws the reader in to the heart of the suspense and action. The revelation that Tomomi has committed suicide sends Ben off on a wild goose chase of a scavenger hunt that was set in place by Tomomi herself. Soon it becomes clear that not everything is as it seems and that Ben never really knew Tomomi or what she was capable of.  As Ben questions his relationship with Tomomi and asks himself what kind of darkness may have been hidden in her heart, he begins to realize, as does the reader, that he may be in grave danger. Will he unravel the mysteries Tomomi has left behind for him? Is each clue leading him toward his own death? And can we ever really know our friends? These are the questions we ask ourselves as we move toward the end of Three Lives of Tomomi Ishikawa.

By the time we reach the conclusion, we start to ask different questions. Is Tomomi a real person known to the author and is the exchange in the beginning of the novel perhaps genuine? Is the rest of the novel his fulfillment of a promise to write a fictional novel about their relationship? Or are the letters in the opening chapter the voice of not Ben the author but Ben the protagonist and the rest of the novel his ‘fictional’ story (story within a story for the win). It’s also hinted at that perhaps the letter exchange belongs to the protagonist but that the story that follows is Tomomi’s (the character) fictional account as she too suggests at the beginning that she might write a novel. And of course the other possibilities include that the letters and the rest of the novel are “real” within the universe constructed by the author (i.e. a “true” tale of what transpired between those that wrote the letters that open the novel), and either recounted by the protagonist or Tomomi. If Tomomi is indeed the writer of the ensuing “true” story instead of Ben, it is implied that she may have tweaked the story to blend truth with fiction (just as her character does within the story). Confused yet?

Turning over these questions would be a great intellectual exercise for any book group – especially over a bottle of French wine to fit one of the more delicious plot points of the novel.  

Getting to the end of this novel is a bit of a mind game like getting to the end of The Matrix.  Likewise I think Three Lives of Tomomi Ishikawa would make an excellent screenplay and Hollywood drama that would leave the audience asking thoughtful questions as they left the theatre.


Popular posts from this blog

Board Game Review: Hues and Cues

Last week we received Hues and Cues from The Op Games. We recently finished playing through Scooby-Doo Escape from the Haunted Mansion (a fantastic game in The Op Games catalogue designed by Jay Cormier, Sen-Foong Lim, and Kami Mandell that you should absolutely pick up to play with your family) and wanted to give another game from the same publisher a go. I picked Hues and Cues because I’ve been pleasantly surprised by other “test whether our minds think the same way” games such as The Mind   and Wavelength. In Hues and Cues , players gather around a large central board comprised of 480 graduating colors of the rainbow surrounded by an x-y axis and scoring table. White and black (which are technically not colors) are conspicuously absent as are shades (mixtures of color + black; e.g., grey) and tints (mixtures of color + white; e.g., cream).  On each player’s turn, they draw a card with four colors and the x-y axis codes of those colors depicted and they select one. They are in the

Board Game Review: Obsessed with Obsession

I'm completely obsessed with Obsession! I received a review copy of the updated second edition along with all the expansions (Wessex, Useful Man, Upstairs Downstairs) and from the moment I took everything out of the boxes, my excitement was over the top. Actually, that's not even the half of it - I remember I was already quite excited before the game even arrived. I'd wanted to get my hands on a copy as soon as I learned there was a game that brought the lifestyle that we all fell in love with watching Downton Abbey to the gaming table. Back in 2021, I was having a great time at the Dice Tower Summer Retreat and a new friend Bonnie sang the praises of Obsession. She had seen me eyeing the box on the shelf and gave me a summary of the game mechanics as she owned the first edition. She explained that the theme is centered on running an estate in Derbyshire and competing against others to have the best home, reputation, gentry guests, etc. Based on her enthusiasm and descripti

Board Game Review: Anno 1800

Whenever Martin Wallace designs a new game, I am all over it. This is because I absolutely love Brass Birmingham (another MW designed game); in fact Brass Birmingham is my #1 board game of all time. Over the years, his other games I've tried have been pretty good, but not necessarily amazing must-buys. Still, I keep trying each new release of his, searching for that next star performer. That's why I'm excited to report that Anno 1800 is, in fact, a star performer, and an amazing must-buy board game. Anno 1800 was adapted by the publisher (Kosmos) from a Ubisoft video game of the same name. In the board game, players take on the role of industrialists, charged with developing their island economies and exploring other islands. Each player begins the game with a personal industry board with trade & exploration ships, a shipyard, and industrial goods tiles printed on the board. A starting collection of workers (wooden cubes) of various types to produce the goods is a