cover image There’s No Such Thing as an Easy Job

There’s No Such Thing as an Easy Job

Kikuko Tsumura, trans. from the Japanese by Polly Barton. Bloomsbury, $18 trade paper (416p) ISBN 978-1-63557-691-7

Tsumura’s sharp English-language debut follows a woman’s search for fulfillment in an all-consuming late-capitalist Japan. The unnamed narrator suffers career burnout at 36 and abandons her job (she’s coy until the end about the details). When her unemployment insurance runs out, she reenters the workforce, seeking a position “that was practically without substance, a job that sat on the borderline between being a job and not.” What follows is a series of increasingly strange and occasionally surreal temporary gigs. In one, she monitors hours of video footage from surveillance cameras placed in an author’s house and begins to find her preferences and identity merging with his; in another, she writes copy for voice advertisements on buses, but the businesses she’s writing for mysteriously appear and disappear. Though she attempts to maintain emotional distance from her work, the narrator is drawn into a consuming series of workplace situations; while working on a maintenance crew for a national park, she encounters a man living in the woods who succumbed to a similar burnout. Tsumura’s rendering of a millennial besieged by anxious overthinking and coping through deadpan humor and sarcasm rings true. As the monotonous and fantastic collide, Tsumura shows that meaning and real intrigue can be found in the unlikeliest of places. (Mar.)