Mr Nakano's thrift shop holds treasures, tat and the downright strange but when Hitomi takes a job there behind the till she thinks it is a wonderful place full of stories, love and loss. What Hitomi didn't expect to fall for her co-worker but as time progresses she comes to realise that this shop has it's secrets and so does it's inhabitants.
By taking part in Tandem Collective's read-along for Nakano Thrift Shop I received a free copy of the book but all views are my own and are my honest opinions.
Kawakami has been known for her abstract approach to fiction and Nakano Thrift Shop definitely lives up to that. The premise of the story seems odd and unconventional because what would be so interesting as to follow the intricacies of a thrift shop, but that is what drew me in. Kawakami uses the abstract to her advantage and creates a little world within the walls of the shop describing each passing customer and what they buy, giving a small insight a stranger's life. These short snippets of life added depth to the novel and gives the reader something to connect to since these are just your average people with their own pasts and secrets but gone in a fleeting moment.
I mention that the fleeting moments added depth because these two or three pages scenes are what made the book tolerable for me. Nakano Thrift Shop started extremely strong and there was a lot of anticipation as to where the book would lead but as we progress the once interesting characters become one-dimensional and difficult to form connections with. Similarly their connections with each other became stiff which then made the romance of the novel fall flat.
One of my favourite books has been a translated novel and I truly believe that finding the right translator will be the be-all and end-all of a book. Nakano felt clunky and failed to flow from page to page, this could easily be due to translation but it made for difficult reading. I'd like to have seen an alternative translation to see if it is purely the difficulty in translating or if Kawakami novels do just suffer from lack of flow.
Ultimately I enjoyed the side stories more than the main plot. Hitomi and Takeo's love story started well but just became frustrating the more and more Kawakami tried to work them out for the reader. Their feelings were not communicated to each other or the reader and if there had been more focus on this I'd have definitely been more interested but alas, this was a massive miss for me.