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Hiromi Kawakami is fast becoming the go-to novelist for publishers looking to expand their Japanese list, slipping effortlessly into the “quirky” space once occupied by Banana Yoshimoto. “The Nakano Thrift Shop” is exactly what readers have come to expect from her: eccentric character excavations that are somehow intensely focused yet almost flippantly delivered.

The center of the novel is Hitomi, a young woman who works in Mr. Nakano’s thrift shop. Nakano’s sister, Masayo, and his driver, Takeo, complete the workforce. Together they form an ersatz inverted nuclear family, modern in its utility and formation. For 21st-century urbanites, friends and colleagues occupy traditional family roles, while “real” relatives are distant and serve for practical help but never emotional support.

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