Book Review: Sweet Bean Paste by Durian Sukegawa

Title: Sweet Bean Paste

Author: Durian Sukegawa

Page Count: 186

Publish Date: October 5, 2017

Publisher: Oneworld Publications

Buy Sweet Bean Paste at Amazon.


Sentaro has failed. He has a criminal record, drinks too much, and his dream of becoming a writer is just a distant memory. With only the blossoming of the cherry trees to mark the passing of time, he spends his days in a tiny confectionery shop selling dorayaki, a type of pancake filled with sweet bean paste.

But everything is about to change.

Into his life comes Tokue, an elderly woman with disfigured hands and a troubled past. Tokue makes the best sweet bean paste Sentaro has ever tasted. She begins to teach him her craft, but as their friendship flourishes, social pressures become impossible to escape and Tokue’s dark secret is revealed, with devastating consequences.

Sweet Bean Paste is a moving novel about the burden of the past and the redemptive power of friendship.

Sweet Bean Paste

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My Review:

I listened to the audiobook and also went into this book blind, knowing nothing about the story.

The narrator, Cindy Kay, did a wonderful job of bringing these characters to life, giving them all unique voices. I feel like going the audiobook route was the right choice with this book – I’m sure I would have still enjoyed it had I read the physical book, but sometimes, narrators can truly make a story even more special than it is on paper.

It did take a bit to get me into the story. Sentaro feels plain at first, he’s stuck in his life, not entirely loving his job but he doesn’t have much else he can do -especially on account of his criminal record.

However, that all starts to change when Tokue enters his life. Their initial interaction doesn’t do much, but it plants the seed for a beautiful friendship that will change both of their lives, along with Wakana, a high school girl who starts visiting Sentaro’s shop later on.

Tokue’s kindness and continued visits to Sentaro’s shop begins to open his eyes to the greater world around him. When he once saw no future for himself, he now is beginning to see things differently, his passion for his job increases with each day and it’s Tokue who is a huge part of that.

While these two begin to work together more and more, we get to discover more about each other’s pasts. They each have things that they want to keep hidden but as they begin to trust each other more and more, those secrets are revealed.

Tokue’s secret is a heavy burden and when it escapes the confines of Sentaro’s shop, the negative impact comes in unexpectedly fast – especially when it comes to the owner of the shop Sentaro runs, the wife of his friend. This devious woman will do whatever it takes to ruin Sentaro and Tokue’s friendship and livelihood.

Along the way, high school student Wakana begins to visit the dorayaki shop and slowly begins to build a friendship with Sentaro and Tokue. She is a quiet person and has her own troubles in life, which eventually get revealed.

These three go through a lot during the course of the story and it’s their friendship and shared burdens that help them get through it all.

Thanks to the small cast of characters, which focuses heavily on the three friends while adding a couple of people here and there to propel events forward, we get to truly understand each character and it helps the reader form a connection with them.

While the book wraps up the story well, I can’t help but want a sequel that follows Sentaro and Wakana several years after the end of this book. I would be curious to see if their friendship still exists and what they are up to now.

Though the story itself is about dealing with past burdens and moving on in life, it’s in fact, bean paste that is the glue of this story that brings the characters and story together. This book is beautifully written and does a fantastic job of showing that life can change and get better, even when you think it can’t, you never know when someone will enter your life and change it.

I am glad I gave this one a try and I will be adding more of Durian Sukegawa’s books to my TBR.

I hope you enjoyed my review of Sweet Bean Paste. Have you read this book?

Buy Sweet Bean Paste at Amazon.


  1. Sounds fascinating! Love an intriguing read with a twist.

  2. Thank you for this book review. I’m looking for a few new books to add to my summer reading list. This sounds like one I might like.

  3. This looks like such an interesting read! I’ve been looking for books from authors I haven’t read before and I’ll add this to my list!

  4. Great review of the book Sweet Bean Paste. A story of friendship and troubled pasts. I’m always looking for great books-get sick of purchasing and reading duds. This book is on my list for sure. And Im sharing it with my daughter too.

  5. This sounds like an interesting read. I just added it to my TBR. I love a book with a small cast of characters. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

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