Review: Three Lives of Tomomi Ishikawa – Benjamin Constable

Three Lives of Tomomi Ishikawa

Three Lives of Tomomi Ishikawa

Benjamin Constable


My rating:
5 star book

Goodreads summary:

What writer Benjamin Constable needs is a real-life adventure wilder than his rampant imagination. And who better to shake up his comfortable Englishman-in-Paris routine than the enigmatic Tomomi “Butterfly” Ishikawa, who has just sent a cryptic suicide note?
She’s planted a slew of clues—in the pages of her journal, on the hard drive of her computer, tucked away in public places, under flowerpots, and behind statues. Heartbroken, confused, and accompanied by an imaginary cat, Ben embarks upon a scavenger hunt leading to charming and unexpected spaces, from the hidden alleys of Paris to the cobblestone streets of New York City.

But Butterfly’s posthumous messages are surprisingly well informed for the words of a dead person, and they’re full of confessions of a past
darkened by insanity, betrayal, and murder. The treasures Ben is unearthing are instalments of a gruesome memoir. Now he must draw a clear line between the real and surreal if he is to save himself, Butterfly, and what remains of their crazy and amazing friendship.


Though perhaps slightly macabre, I have to say that I love the storyline in this book. It’s definitely very unique, as is the writing. I really enjoyed how this book gave you some more information about Paris and New York City but about some really lesser known things. But most of all I love the way you really don’t know what is real and what isn’t in this book. I kept thinking I knew which was which but the lines kept getting blurred again and again. This just gave the book an extra dimension and made me want to read it even more.

This story has a very unique premise and it doesn’t disappoint. It definitely was able to pull through all the way to the ending. The mix of narrative and the letters from Tomomi and the “excerpts” from the city guides made this a more interesting story than it would have been if it had only existed in the telling of the main storyline. This mix of different elements really made the book more interesting and the story better. The best part of the story, in my opinion, was that we never knew how much of it is true. It was just a constant guessing game which I really liked, everyone was just able to have their own perception of what is true and what isn’t within the realm of this book. And I guess in a way I also really enjoyed that the ending didn’t give away what the truth was. It didn’t confirm or deny anything.

Benjamin was a special character and at times I had a hard time getting into his frame of mind. But after a couple of chapters this got a lot easier and it made me like him more. Benjamin, however, is nothing compared to Tomomi as a special character. She is definitely not anywhere close to being a run of the mill character. There are a lot of different sides to Tomomi and we get to experience them bit by bit, all the while still pondering the reality of certain events. I really liked her as a character but I liked the friendship that she had with Benjamin most of all. It was such an unconventional friendship where nobody involved really knew where they stood all the time. That was just so great because isn’t that how life usually is? Very uncertain and never the way you imagined it to be?

The writing is this book was just amazing. The letters by Tomomi were always beautifully written and the narrative was very straight forward. I was also a big fan of the conversations Ben and Butterfly (Tomomi) had, they were a bit random but always seeming like something that might actually be discussed. The book is a mix of a road trip/ travel and mystery all the while telling the story of a strange friendship and a quest for the truth. I think it’s definitely unique in that way and I really enjoyed this delicious blend. The story also raises a lot of questions about people in general, or it did for me anyway (this is next to the many questions it made me have about the story and its characters). Are people always who we think they are? Don’t we sometimes get confused about who they are by what we think they are and what we think they should be?

In short: this is a unique book with fun characters. We get all of this packaged in beautiful writing and a gorgeous cover on top. If this synopsis appeals to you, I beg of you to pick it up, it’s such a gem of a book. And who could not like this synopsis? Who doesn’t like a quest involving an imaginary cat and backdrops of NYC and Paris?

I imagine this is a great book to have fun discussions about with friends, so if anyone has read this book and feels like comparing notes: let me know!


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