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The Nakano Thrift Shop
Cover of The Nakano Thrift Shop
The Nakano Thrift Shop
A Novel
Borrow Borrow
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
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
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  • Publisher's Weekly

    April 24, 2017
    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.”

  • Kirkus

    April 1, 2017
    In this quirky and episodic novel, a young woman yearns for love in a thrift store full of oddities and odd characters.Kawakami (Strange Weather in Tokyo, 2014, etc.) writes of Hitomi, a naive cashier at the Nakano Thrift Shop, who falls for her co-worker, Takeo. "People scare me," confides Takeo, who wants companionship with Hitomi but nothing more. Though Hitomi and Takeo find friendship on the common ground of Mr. Nakano's unusual shop, Takeo is taciturn and reluctant; he's uninterested in sex. (Their boss, Mr. Nakano, on the other hand, openly discusses his sexual exploits, multiple marriages and trips to visit "the Bank"--his mistress--to the chagrin of his employees.) Frustrated by Takeo's reticence and lack of attention, Hitomi visits Mr. Nakano's sister, Masayo, for advice. Masayo, who is in her 50s, attempts to explain to Hitomi how nobody can be taken for granted. "When I haven't heard from someone for a while, the first thing that occurs to me is that they might have just keeled over. This was what Masayo had murmured when Takeo hadn't been answering my calls," Hitomi recalls. Masayo's words prove to be prescient. Several items hint at the greater significance of Nakano's thrift store, including an old set of photographs and an antique celadon bowl that's cursed by a breakup. Each has a brief role in the story, but much of Kawakami's work centers on Hitomi's obsession with Takeo's lack of romantic response. Another theme--art and its relationship to reality--is touched on briefly yet doesn't come to fruition. Romantic discussions and concerns are surface-level. Characters in the novel have no real motivation to change, so the book becomes a static exercise in studying them as objects. Charming and engrossing as a shop of curiosities but thin on meaningful change or conflict.

    COPYRIGHT(2017) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Booklist

    May 1, 2017
    This atmospheric novel is a strange, lovely, intimate look into the regular lives of a shop owner, his sister, and his two employees. Hitomi and Takeo work at the overflowing Nakano Thrift Shop for the eponymous Mr. Nakano, who spends his days haggling over second-hand goods (not antiques). It isn't long before Hitomi and Takeoaimless, twentysomething lonersbegin an awkward relationship. Mr. Nakano's sister, Masayo, an artist, is a frequent visitor to the shop and weaves an almost magical spell over customers; the store is always busier when she's around (as is the reader). Although Hitomi is the book's narrator, Masayo is its guiding force. She serves as Mr. Nakano's voice of reason and Hitomi's sexual role model and confidante. Though never explicit, sex is a consistent undertone. In general, the writing is reserved, and the chapters episodic, making this character-driven story slow-paced and dense. A patient reader will be rewarded with memorable characters in a modern Japanese slice-of-life drama.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2017, American Library Association.)

  • Monique Truong, author of Bitter in the Mouth "Charming, quirky, and wise, this is a warmhearted character study of the undervalued, the obsolete, and the hidden gems among us all."
  • Booklist ". . .[A] modern Japanese slice-of-life drama."
  • Philippine Daily Inquirer "Readers will grow to care about these quirky characters [...] making "Nakano" an utterly charming little book."
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A Novel
Hiromi Kawakami
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