Chapter 1: Housebound
The first chapter of Mori’s Shizuko’s Daughter begins with Shizuko, the protagonist’s mother, dreaming about the small village in which she grew up. The phone awakens her. It is her daughter, Yuki, who tells her mother that her piano teacher will be late for Yuki’s lesson, thus causing Yuki to return home later than anticipated. Shizuko assures Yuki that this will not cause any difficulties. Although the tone of her mother’s voice concerns Yuki, she decides to wait for Miss Uozumi rather than forego the lesson.
Meanwhile, Shizuko begins her process of readying herself for her suicide. She sits down and writes two notes. She asks for her husband’s forgiveness, blaming only herself for the unhappiness that has led her to this act. In her note to Yuki, she writes that Yuki must always remember that she loves her. Then she adds, “When you grow up to be a strong woman, you will know that this was for the best.”
She goes to the kitchen, closes the door, and lays the two notes on the table. After turning on the gas on the stove, she sits down on the floor. She thinks about a comment that she wrote in the note to her husband: “I am almost happy at this last hour,” she had written. Then she had added, “and I wish you to be.” When she thinks over this last sentiment, she changes her mind about it and reaches up to the table, finds the note to her husband, and tears it into very small pieces.
Chapter 2: The Wake
Yuki and her aunt Aya are packing all of Shizuko’s clothes and jewelry. Aya comments, “Nobody would think you were only twelve,” making reference to Yuki’s composed reactions to her mother’s death. Already, Yuki is tired of such remarks. Yuki reflects on how she came home from her lesson the day before to find her mother on the kitchen floor. Looking back, she wonders if her mother was still alive when she first found her. She tries to remember whether her mother was breathing. When Yuki telephoned her father, he told her not to call an ambulance because it would cause too much commotion in the neighborhood.
Yuki goes downstairs to the living room, and when her aunt sees her, she suggests that the dress that Yuki is wearing is of an inappropriate color. Aya takes Yuki upstairs to find a dress in a darker or more muted tone. The only appropriate dress that Aya finds is an old choir uniform. Yuki’s mother had made all of Yuki’s other clothes, using brightly patterned materials. When her aunt leaves the room, Yuki begins to put on the choir outfit. As she does this, she hears voices wailing downstairs. She drops the dress to the floor and goes into her clothes closet with all the vivid colors, sits down on the floor, and shuts the door.
Chapter 3: Tiptoes
One year later, Yuki is sent up to a hotel dressing room where her father’s future bride is preparing herself for her wedding. Yuki’s future stepmother, Hanae, states that there should be no hard feelings between her and Yuki. She says, “You’ll probably hear people say all kinds of bad things about me because I was married to your father so soon after your mother’s tragic death.” She then suggests that Yuki shouldn’t believe any gossip concerning a supposed affair that she and Yuki’s father had been carrying on.
Yuki is very uncomfortable in the room and tells Hanae that the smell of makeup is making her sick. Then she runs out of the room. Yuki finds her Aunt Aya and begs her to repeat the story about how her grandmother had arranged a wedding for Yuki’s mother and how Yuki’s mother had refused to take part in an arranged marriage. Her aunt repeats the details of how Shizuko had moved to Kobe to find a job. That was how she’d met Yuki’s father.
Later, during the wedding ceremony, as a ceramic bowl of sake is passed around the room, Yuki purposefully drops it when it is given to her. The breakage, in Yuki’s mind, mimics the earlier breaking of a rice bowl at her mother’s funeral, an act performed so her mother’s ghost would not haunt the house. Yuki breaks the sake bowl so her father will not forget her mother.
Chapter 4: Irises
Yuki, who had been living with her Aunt Aya until her father’s marriage, experiences another dramatic turn in her life. She moves in with her father and stepmother, but they close themselves off to her. She goes into the kitchen and notices that all her mother’s ceramic pieces are gone, except for one tea service. She remembers her mother taking her to street fairs to watch potters create their wares. The recent move into her father’s house reminds Yuki of another transition, when she and her mother had packed up all the household goods to move to a new house closer to the mountains. She compares the warm feelings that she and her mother...