Saturday, March 25, 2023

There's No Such Thing as an Easy Job by Kikuko Tsumura


I was so excited to buddy-read this book with s.penkevich. I've admired their literary-fiction reviews for a while and thought the idea of checking out this surreal work of Japanese literature with such a book friend was really fun. Especially since the listlessness and ennui of the heroine can be overwhelming at times.

Our heroine is a thirty-six-year-old woman with burnout who repeatedly goes to the same employment agency over the course of the novel to request more jobs. She wants something close to home with no reading or writing involved and, ideally, very little thinking.

Her jobs get progressively weirder and weirder. Her first job is in video surveillance, watching a man who may be in unknowing league with a contrabander. Her second job is working for an advertising agency for a bus company. Her third job is writing trivia that go on the packets of fried rice snacks. Her fourth job is putting up environmental awareness posters in a small community. And her fifth job is manning the cabin in the middle of a man-made park filled with fruit trees.

THERE'S NO SUCH THING AS AN EASY JOB is such a strange book. It's so strange that several times, I would set the book down and think, "Do I really like this book?" I considered DNF-ing even, but was unable to stop reading. There's an almost supernatural bent to some of her jobs, which can sometimes make them feel creepy (especially in the case of the bus advertisements and poster jobs), but it's never outright scary or anything, just in a way that makes the reader feel uneasy.

For once, I think the comparisons in the blurb of this book are on the mark. This really is like a cross between MY YEAR OF REST AND RELAXATION and CONVENIENCE STORE WOMAN. The comparisons are rarely that apt, so I'm actually impressed, because that's how I probably would have described this book, too. It's a book about how our jobs shape us and vice-versa, a criticism (I think?) about hustle/gig culture, and just a really interesting story about a disaffected woman trying to live her life as best she can. For people who enjoy character-driven stories, this will be quite the treat.

3.5 to 4 out of 5 stars

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