""All that happy talk about understanding one another and people everywhere being basically the same, it's all a bunch of crap. Everybody's different,"" rants Aoi, one of the protagonists of Kakuta's authoritative U.S. debut. The story moves between the contemporary story of 30-something housewife Sayoko Tamura, who is tentatively stepping back into the work force, and that of Aoi Narahashi, a shy girl whose parents move to a small town so that she can escape the bullying at her Yokohama high school, set 20 years earlier. The teenaged outcast Aoi makes a crucial, tragic friendship that turns her into an unconventional adult, and in the contemporary narrative, the adult Aoi hires Sayoko to head the new house-cleaning venture of her travel company, Platinum Planet. Success, the two women discover, lies not in corporate ladders, family, conforming to other people's expectations or cutting all ties to follow your bliss. Instead, it lies in the very process of work, and in the connections that arise in that process-with difference being the one thing everyone has in common. The translation occasionally feels more colloquial than necessary, but it nicely conveys the novel's mood of quiet epiphany.