Sand Chronicles Volume 9
The main story by Hinako Ashihara concluded in the last book, so this volume is all background. We start with Ann’s mother as a teenager, a standard tale made deeper by the knowledge of her eventual sad ending. She’s too concerned with what others think and tortured by the explicit, mean rumors that follow her. She can’t avoid them — either she’s seen as too warm (and thus loose) or too cold (stuck-up).
Something about the depth of her desire to be liked makes it easy for others to wound her, and Ashihara’s art captures well that delicacy and vulnerability. The girl values the casual opinions of others over her own feelings, because they can hurt her more than she has strength to withstand. Daigo’s mother is the observer and narrator of this episodic piece, showing key moments in Ann’s mother’s life.
In the second story, Ann’s younger step-sister and her friend Shika go to New York, where they encounter Ann’s ex-fiance, a driven worker who needs to learn what more there is to life. A little kid is a great messenger for that, of course. I would have enjoyed this more if I’d remembered who these characters without looking them up, but the message — that there’s more to life than work, and people there aren’t your family — is a universal one, worth repeating. The more you’re a fan of the series, the more you’ll enjoy these pieces, since they mean more the more you remember about the cast and their relationships.