Don’t let the title fool you. The long-awaited English translation of Mieko Kawakami’s novel “Breasts and Eggs” is not some elevated, literary piece of Japanese chick lit. It’s a novel of humanity, a multifaceted consideration of the fundamental question: What does it mean to exist?

That Kawakami considers the idea and all its implications from a mostly female viewpoint, covering contemporary issues such as sex work, single motherhood, beauty and gender norms, societal isolation and meaningful vocation does not diminish its universality. It heightens it.

Catching up with Kawakami over a video call from her office in Tokyo, she says, “While it’s true that this is a story about the life of one woman ... it’s ultimately a story of people, living life through tears.”