Book review: The Nakano Thrift Shop

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

There might be spoilers ahead.

It wasn't until I updated my Goodreads reading challenge that I realized it took me almost an entire month to finish reading this book. The Nakano Thrift Shop is a slow read, a book that I'd likely curl up with on a rainy Sunday afternoon, except it's dry season in the Philippines and there's hardly any rain. Anyway, if you are after the plot, there is none. It's a character-based story written from Hitomi's point of view, the girl that works behind the counter of the shop. 

There are only four significant characters in the story. There's Hitomi. Then there's Takeo who heavily reminded me of Nakajima Yuto in his drama Where Do I Came From, whose job is to go with the shop's owner Mr. Nakano in search for items to buy and sell in the shop. Then there's also Mr. Nakano's older sister, Masayo, an artist and eventually became Hitomi's closest friend. 

The story imitates life too closely, and it's because the characters experience the same things that people experience in real life. See, we go to work and, depending on the job or task we perform, we observe the people around us. There may or may not be a little bit of judgement in our head on what kind of person is the one standing in front of us, but we won't really tell it to anyone. Although I am not the one who'd make surprise home visits to work friends, I can be the one who'd ask them to go out and have coffee or dinner after a particularly long day at work. The seasons change from dry to wet season, and before we knew it, it has already been years and we'd wonder where the time went. 

Hitomi falls in love with Takeo, but no one knows what went on in Takeo's mind. He's not interested in women and sex, but one evening he ended up in Hitomi's bed, though briefly. Then suddenly they just became strangers to each other. Hitomi went through the stages of grief over Takeo, but she never really gave up on him. Years later, they meet again. Hitomi is still in love and it was great that she never gave that love up. 

I don't know what's with Japanese literature that they make me feel sad and empty. When I read Strange Weather In Tokyo and Before The Coffee Gets Cold, I felt the same vibe, like there was a hovering loneliness and I have no idea where it's coming from. Do I recommend this book to my friends? Probably, if they're after character-based story who do not care about dismal or even lack of plot. Will I read another Hiromi Kawakami book? Certainly. I have The Ten Loves of Mr. Nishino on my reading list. 


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