THE LAKE, by Banana Yoshimoto. Melville House, 2011, 192 pp., $23.95 (hardcover)

It's hard to believe it's been six years since Banana Yoshimoto had a new novel published in English. Her early novel "Kitchen" was hugely popular with foreign audiences, but since the release of "Hardboiled and Hard Luck" (2005), problems with her former publisher have stalled output overseas.

The English translation of "The Lake" got its release in May with a new publishing house. The Japan Times met Yoshimoto at her offices in Shimokitazawa to discuss the book.

"The Lake" is the melancholy tale of a rather awkward romance between young artist Chihiro and her mysterious neighbor, Nakajima. Though Chihiro is the heroine, the novel focuses on Nakajima's psychological problems: It's revealed later in the book that he had been kidnapped by a religious cult as a child.