Here I am unvarnished to tell you, when this novel was released in the late ‘70s, a chapter was published a month. This should tell you about the pace at which the book must be savored. I am deeply struck by Tsushima’s prose (as well as the deftness of the translation), the way she inhabits moments and turns them into deep wells. Hers is work that seems smooth on the surface, but when experienced, is smoky, and blunt, and refined. Each chapter is a season of a woman’s experience of her first year without her husband, who has left her. The woman and her child move into an apartment suffused with light, and woman and space merge here in telling and deft ways. The woman dreams of water, and the apartment floods, the woman wearies of life alone and windows sprout blue mesh. These connections are pulled from a dream world, but in Tsushima’s hands, they are inarguably real, the dream turned on its heel into wakefulness at an exact moment. Tsushima’s words go down so easily, it’s startling when the ribbon of her thoughts reveals love as a terrible and dreadful thing. The mother, exhausted, grieving, overburdened, shoves her child, lets her child wallow in her pee-stained pants until the crying has gone on so long she begrudgingly gets out of bed. These are beautiful, harsh moments, incisively clear on the ways in which the people we love most also bear the greatest parts of our pain. Tenderness too is here, with the mother, despite her burdens, often carrying her child when she has grown exhausted, caressing her back until the child falls asleep. The child too assumes the motherhood role, at three she mops her mother’s face when she falls ill and insists her mother stroke the back of a homeless man with her, to soothe him. Tsushima will not ease your idea of what it means to care for another but I found these moments stunning in their resonance, depth, and honesty (some may cry neglect! at the idea of a toddler caring for her mother, though I am not among them-love’s being is complex). A tasting whiskey, Territory of Light demands time, a tolerance of fire skimmed with a deceptively silky surface—the trace of which you feel long after the pages run out.