There’s something with this book that made me feel like I was reading a script of a TV series wherein I followed the main protagonist in a part of her life. And after finishing it, I realized that I wanted a second season, I wanted to know more.
Before going any further, can we first stop and try to adore the cover of this book. The cover immediately sets up the atmosphere of the book. Designed by Natsumi Hayashi, the cover is a peek as to how fascinating the book is. It set up the tone for the book’s theme of unconventional love and offbeat relationships.
The book is the story of Hitomi Suganuma, a young Japanese woman who’s working at a second-hand shop owned by an old man named Haruo Nakano. The book follows her everyday life at the thrift shop, with the people she works with to the people that buys and visits the shop. The thrift shop became the avenue used by the author to explore different human connections and relationships.
Told through the point of view of Hitomi, the book is like a collection of short stories. Each chapter follows an item at the store which becomes the main focal point of each story. From there, different relationships were explored particularly the people that work in the Nakano thrift shop. There’s the onwer, Mr. Nakano; his artistic older sister who pops in the shop every once in a while, Masayo; Hitomi, and Hitomi’s co-helper in the shop and her love interest, the always reserved guy, Takeo. Readers will know their personal stories which made me more understand and appreciate each character’s way of thinking. There’s Mr. Nakano’s failed marriages and his relationship with his new partner, Sakiko. There’s Masayo’s refusal to get married despite having a stable relationship. Then there’s the unresolved issues of Takeo in his past which made him this introverted guy. The relationship that they built as a family and not just co-workers in the shop despite their differences is something to look forward to when planning to read this book.
I love the connections that are on this book. I like how the author was able to portray the relationships in a way that you’ll only realize how each are unique and genuine they are after finishing the book. To be honest, midway reading this book, I am confused as to where the story is heading but after finishing it, I realized that the main feature of the book is its portrayal of the connections between the characters. I like how each relationships are fabricated intricately. They are interweaved in a way that will make you understand how relationships can be at times quirky and playful. Relationships are explored through the through different interactions that occurred mostly at the shop. Aside from the conversations, the way the author describes the movements of the characters and sudden change in the atmosphere tells more about them. The book has this fluidity that will make you not want to put it down. Structuring it in an interlinked short stories made the book easier to read which for me I did at a leisurely pace. The book is effortless in being subtle and poignant.
The love story aspect of this book is something that is not too overpowering. The love story between Hitomi and Takeo is one that was built in awkwardness. It’s very unique because they were like these two awkward individuals afraid to commit to anything but they know themselves that they are in love with each other. They are this two opposite characters who are afraid to start something fearing that it will just lead to nothing. They find it difficult to be close to each other. It became a battle as to who will give in first. But as they say, destiny has it’s own way of doing it’s work.
Overall this book is an enjoyable and charming book. It has this right balance of being a light read but at the same time it has this depth that will make you ponder on things. This book makes me want to read more of the author’s works. I can say that this is a great introduction if you’re planning to start reading Japanese literature as this book is not something that will require to be adept with Japanese culture to understand.
The book was translated to English by Allison Markin Powell.
4 stars out of 5.
Note: My gratitude to Portobello Books for providing me a review copy in exchange for a honest and unbiased review. In no way was my opinion about the book influenced.
Author: Hiromi Kawakami
Translator: Allison Markin Powell
Part of a Series: No
Release Year: August 2016
Publisher: Portobello Books
No. of Pages: 256 pages
About the Author
Born in Tokyo, Kawakami graduated from Ochanomizu Women’s College in 1980. She made her debut as “Yamada Hiromi” in NW-SF No. 16, edited by Yamano Koichi and Yamada Kazuko, in 1980 with the story So-shimoku (“Diptera”), and also helped edit some early issues of NW-SF in the 1970s. She reinvented herself as a writer and wrote her first book, a collection of short stories entitled God (Kamisama) published in 1994. Her novel The Teacher’s Briefcase (Sensei no kaban) is a love story between a woman in her thirties and a man in his seventies. She is also known as a literary critic and a provocative essayist. (Goodreads)