If you are in a rut with your career, read this book. If you are looking for a little mystery, read this book. If you love Japanese culture and social norms, read this book. If you are looking to settle in and be surprised by a title, read this book!
I love Japan and Japanese culture, I speak the language and have studied aspects of Japanese society, politics and language for most of my life, including five years of university. So, you could say that it’s a no brainer that I would be drawn to this book when walking through the shelves at my local bookstore, letting the covers jump out at me.
In reading There’s No Such Thing an an Easy Job (see goodreads link) it was like being launched back into a beautiful combination of academic observation blended with nuanced lived experience. It is discretely layered and quite simplistic in its story telling.The premise is very straight forward – a lady experiences an emotional breakdown in the job intended to become her career, she returns to living with her parents and tries to get a job through an agency where she does the least amount possible in order to disengage and simplify everything in her life.
As a 30-year-old woman there is nothing more relatable than a story where you question your career choices. Tsumura has nailed the feeling of general disquiet and upset that one feels when the work they set out to make a vocation becomes overwhelming or doesn’t quite “land”. This story is further burdened with an all too common phenomenon in Japan of emotional burnout and a need to withdraw entirely from society, along with all of its expectations and requirements. This of course happens in every society, but Japan is known for its extremes, and the sheer pressure placed on people to graduate high school, qualify and then engage with a career is intense. The alternative tends to be complete isolation and self-exclusion when that doesn’t work out (see hikikomori). It isn’t like a tantrum and a big throw up of the hands. It is more often than not quiet, it is all encompassing and it is, quite frankly, very dangerous for the individual.
Any book that brings forward these types of conditions in society are welcomed by me. For many reading this book it will seem inconceivable, but then for so many it will resonate and hit home, and both parties I think will wholly benefit from reading this.
What Tsumura does so skilfully is highlight how individuals often just don’t really work like that. They certainly don’t thrive like that. If you strip your life back to walking up the road from home to work, purchasing food from within the building and then returning home to sleep, the rest of the world will often get in the way of this best laid plan. This is how the book starts, and as the main character progresses from job to job through the agency, it is as if her tree is being shaken and she awakes from her need to withdraw.
Life is mysterious and many actors play different roles in our lives at different times. What is beautifully done in this book is the depiction of what happens when someone who felt isolated, bereft, and alone, is confronted by others in the world experiencing similar. Seeing her own underlying emotions reflected back to herself, and seeing how others handle them, the main character in There’s No Such Thing as an Easy Job starts to come to a better peace within herself.
Give this title a read. It is best digested quickly, in my opinion. Once I started reading it I kept thinking about it and wanting to see how it progressed. The flow is enchanting and the build of the story is soft yet rapid, it is lovely. Happy reading!