November 22, 2021 10:37 AM EST

Award-winning Japanese writer Kikuko Tsumura’s first book to be translated into English (by Polly Barton, beautifully) could be described as a quintessential COVID-19 story of workplace burnout and disillusionment; it just so happens Tsumura originally published it in 2016. When we meet our unnamed 36-year-old protagonist, she’s left her high-stress job of 10 years and has decided to forgo the notion of a meaningful job in favor of one that won’t lead to a nervous breakdown. This begins a series of temp jobs that run from mundane to absurd, but none can truly be called easy—and as her yearning continues, the temp starts to suspect there is also no such thing as a good job. Tsumura gives us a thought-provoking, drily funny critique of capitalism and the systems of self-worth that are built around it.

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