A way-out looking menial worker catches the attention of a young school boy.
A young boy is obsessed with a woman who works the sandwich bar at a local supermarket. She wears ice-blue eye shadow and handles the sandwiches – putting them into their little plastic bags – with mesmerising dexterity. The boy calls her “Ms Ice Sandwich” and goes almost everyday to buy the cheapest sandwich, an egg one. Ms Ice-Sandwich never looks the boy in the eye, making her almost a deity in his eyes.
At school, the boy has a friend, named Tutti. She’s a bit offbeat herself. When she invites him around to watch a movie, she likes to play over and over her favourite battle scenes and even act them out. When she finds out that her friend is obsessed with Ms Ice Sandwich, she gives him an ultimatum: he must introduce himself. Tutti has a personal philosophy behind this. She believes even the most fleeting relationships should be deepened where possible. But when the boy returns to the supermarket sandwich bar, he discovers that Ms Ice-Sandwich has quit. Has he left things too late?
While ostensibly Ms Ice Sandwich is an adult novel, it can easily be read as children’s fiction. The story is sweet and quirky, while also dealing in a subtle way with themes of death. Both main characters have lost a parent. The boy’s grandmother is also dying. Tutti emphasises the need to make human connections and cherish people – from those closest to us, to even transient acquaintances.
A gentle, somewhat eccentric, but ultimately life affirming story that will leave you with a spring in your step.
Ms Ice Sandwich, by Mieko Kawakami. Published by Pushkin Press. $19.99
North Melbourne Books