Each story is complete in itself. Yet, the farther you read ... Mama from one story is also the woman carrying a bundle in a later tale. The respiratory doctor featured in one tale pops up at least twice (three time?) more. Some are plausible: strangely shaped vegetables, a crazy uncle. Others are fantastical from the get-go: making a purse for an exposed, external heart.
I could NOT put this book down, and read it all at once. Granted it's only 162 pages long, but I was enthralled with the writing and the stories Ogawa weaves. And more amazingly, the book is translated from Ogawa's native Japanese. The stories themselves are universal - they could be American, or European; none give you anything that demands, "this story takes place in XXX."