This “gentle, humorous novel” follows a young Japanese woman as she yearns for the love of a reluctant coworker (The Wall Street Journal).
The objects for sale at the Nakano Thrift Shop appear as commonplace as the staff and customers who handle them. But like those staff and customers, they hold many secrets. If examined carefully, they show the signs of innumerable extravagances, of immeasurable pleasure and pain, and of the deep mysteries of the human heart.
Hitomi, the inexperienced young woman who works the register, has fallen for her coworker, the oddly reserved Takeo. Unsure of how to attract his attention, she seeks advice from her employer’s sister, Masayo, whose sentimental entanglements make her a somewhat unconventional guide. But thanks in part to Masayo, Hitomi will come to realize that love, desire, and intimacy require acceptance not only of idiosyncrasies but also of the delicate waltz between open and hidden secrets, in this novel from the author of Strange Weather in Tokyo that “captures an untranslatable Japanese mood” (The New York Times).
“Uses a series of vignettes to chronicle a girl’s time working at Mr. Nakano’s secondhand store in Tokyo . . . Pleasant, leisurely prose.” —Publishers Weekly
“Hiromi Kawakami’s charming novel illuminates moments of kindness, love and friendship that pop up like the unexpected treasures amid the shop’s dusty collection of pretty mismatched bowls and plates, castoff eyeglasses, task lamps and old electric fans.” —Minneapolis Star-Tribune
In this gentle novel, Kawakami uses a series of vignettes to chronicle a girl's time working at Mr. Nakano's secondhand store in Tokyo. Soon after she's hired, Hitomi begins dating Takeo, a coworker who proudly describes himself as "just simple." Hitomi wonders how to have a carefree conversation with him to overcome the awkwardness that leads him to respond to her messages with: "I'm fine. Hope you are too." Despite this struggle to navigate their shared inexperience, frank sexuality is inescapable at the shop. One customer brings in photographs of "a man and a woman, naked and intertwined," and Mr. Nakano asks Hitomi to read the "totally pornographic" novel his mistress has written to help answer his question: "Are all women really so damned erotic?" Even at their strangest, these interactions are rendered calmly by Kawakami in pleasant, leisurely prose. The progression of events is hardly dynamic, and those quotidian rhythms are reflected in Hitomi's emotional life. Her relationship with Takeo remains forever "out of sync," leaving her to conclude that "love is idiotic, anyway." Rather than describing an awakening, Kawakami is interested in the experience of working an incidental job, and that allows each moment to stand on its own without having to shoulder greater meaning. "The hourly wage wasn't much," Hitomi muses, "but it was consistent with the amount of effort required."