Author(s): Hiromi Kawakami
When Hitomi takes a job on the cash register of a neighbourhood thrift store, she finds herself drawn into a very idiosyncratic community. There is Mr Nakano, an enigmatic ladies' man with several ex-wives; Masayo, Mr Nakano's sister, an artist who has never married; and her fellow employee Takeo, a shy but charming young man. Every day, customers from the neighbourhood pass in and out as curios are bought and sold, each one containing its own surprising story. When Hitomi and Takeo begin to fall for one another, they find themselves in the centre of their own drama - and on the edges of many others. A tender and affecting exploration of the mystery that lurks in the ordinary, this novel traces the seemingly imperceptible threads that weave together a community, and the knots that bind us to one another.
The Nakano Thrift Shop by Hiromi Kawakami
A few years ago, I read Strange Weather in Tokyo by Hiromi Kawakami. Like the amazing Japanese food described throughout that book, the love story that between Tsukiko and her former teacher is careful, precise and beautiful. Kawakami's most recent novel is The Nakano Thrift Shop. Here the setting is a second-hand shop, one filled with curios, odds and ends, and the occasional antique. Hitomi, a slightly awkward young woman, works as a cashier at the shop. She is fascinated by Takeo, her fellow employee, who drives and collects for Mr Nakano, the shop owner. Mr Nakano is an eccentric character with his past three wives, a mistress, and his joy in getting the best deal when he’s bartering for goods. The other player in this quartet is Nakano’s sister, Mayaso, an unconventional artist, who plays ‘advisor’ to the naïve cashier. Hitomi is obsessed with developing a relationship with Takeo, who initially isn’t interested in anything beyond companionship. While the characters are slightly quirky, this is a novel about the ordinary texture of love and the relationships people form. Kawakami’s gift comes in her ability to slow you down as a reader, to observe and appreciate the obvious, surprising you with subtle nuances that are almost unseen.
From the author of Strange Weather in Tokyo, a novel about a second-hand shop in Tokyo and the community surrounding it: employees and customers, treasure hoarders and secret-seekers, bargain-hunters and would-be lovers
Born in 1959 in Tokyo, HIROMI KAWAKAMI is one of Japan's most popular contemporary novelists, famous for her literary, off-beat fiction. She made her debut with the short story 'God Bless You' in 1994, which received the Bunkamura Prix des Deux Magots and the Murasakishikibu Literature Award. Hebi wo fumu [Tread on a Snake] won the Akutagawa Prize in 1996 and Oboreru [Drowning] won both the Ito Sei Literature Award and Joryu Bungaku Sho (Woman Writers' Prize) in 2000. Her novel Manazuru won the 2011 Japan-U.S. Friendship Commission Prize. ALLISON MARKIN POWELL is a literary translator and editor in New York City. Her translations include works by Osamu Dazai, Fuminori Nakamura, and Kanako Nishi, and she was the guest editor for the first Japan issue of Words Without Borders. She maintains the database, Japanese Literature in English, at http://www.japaneseliteratureinenglish.com.