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There's No Such Thing as an Easy Job

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Convenience Store Woman meets My Year of Rest and Relaxation in this strange, compelling, darkly funny tale of one woman's search for meaning in the modern workplace.

A young woman walks into an employment agency and requests a job that has the following traits: it is close to her home, and it requires no reading, no writing – and ideally, very little thinking.

She is sent to a nondescript office building where she is tasked with watching the hidden-camera feed of an author suspected of storing contraband goods. But observing someone for hours on end can be so inconvenient and tiresome. How will she stay awake? When can she take delivery of her favourite brand of tea? And, perhaps more importantly – how did she find herself in this situation in the first place?

As she moves from job to job, writing bus adverts for shops that mysteriously disappear, and composing advice for rice cracker wrappers that generate thousands of devoted followers, it becomes increasingly apparent that she's not searching for the easiest job at all, but something altogether more meaningful...

416 pages, Paperback

First published October 19, 2015

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About the author

Kikuko Tsumura

30 books177 followers
Kikuko Tsumura (Japanese name: 津村記久子) is a Japanese writer from Osaka. She has won numerous Japanese literary awards, including the Akutagawa Prize, the Noma Literary New Face Prize, the Dazai Osamu Prize, the Kawabata Yasunari Prize, and the Oda Sakunosuke Prize.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,787 reviews
Profile Image for s.penkevich.
965 reviews6,842 followers
September 22, 2023
I’ve worked quite the variety of jobs. Looking back, an odd job always seems rather surreal as individual jobs seem to exist in their unique culture, an aspect of working life that Kikuko Tsumura deftly captures in There’s No Such Thing as an Easy Job. As the narrator navigates five different jobs over the course of a year and all the oddities that surround them, I was reminded of my own eclectic mix such as delivering bulk coffee around the midwest, bartending weddings, managing a Goodwill or working for a large park not unlike the final job in the novel. My own park experience mainly consisted of driving a garbage truck or operating a lawn mower, yet any job has it’s unexpected side and our work-crew that bordered on found-family discovered that finding dead bodies was just a fact of the job. It was during the recession while I was still in college and the park was apparently a scenic location for a quiet suicide, and us as the first in every day tended to discover the aftermath. Not to get grim, but this is the sort of element that I found Tsumura’s work really vibes with, always pushing mundane work life towards surrealism but never quite reaching a magical-realism in a way that reminds us that having a job is really quite its own bizarre reality. With humor and a charming wit, the novel follows a narrator who, having left a career due to burnout, skips around the workforce in search of ‘a job that was practically without substance, a job that sat on the borderline between being a job and not.’ With each job, Tsumura dives deeper into a darkly-comical investigation of work culture and the grip any job sneaks around you, slowly digging its claws into your life and consuming you in surprising ways as the titular statement that there are no easy jobs becomes evidently clear.

Whoever you were, there was a chance that you would end up wanting to run away from a job you had once believed in, that you would stray from the path you were on.

I simply adored this novel and there were many moments where I found myself nodding along in perhaps too eager of agreement. It is a book that make me laugh, and I loved sailing happily along the prose (beautifully translated by Polly Barton). It moves like doing a mundane task, though in a way that unlocks it as well and becomes oddly peaceful. Like a mindless task! As someone that quickly gets caught up in analyzing the society of a job, from the interpersonal dynamics and office politics to the ways each job is a window its own unique culture around the job and those who consume your product, the narrator’s observations struck me quite personally and effectively. Each job seems fairly mundane on the surface: watching spy cameras trained on a novelist who doesn’t do much, writing ads that play on a bus route, writing fun facts for cracker packages (such a satisfying phrase, say it out loud slowly a few times), putting up government posters and, finally, sitting in a hut in a park. Yet with each she finds herself drawn deeper into the job and discovering it overwhelming her life, a life that almost doesn’t exist on the page outside the context of her job. In an attempt to escape from her work burn-out, she finds each new job to be just another avenue leading back towards potential burn-out.

While different in tone and aim, Easy Job still makes for a excellent companion to Sayaka Murata’s Convenience Store Woman , beguiling the reader with it’s piercing insights into the workforce that unearth the absurdities we often overlook to get through our days. I appreciated how the novel dipped into absurdities without ever breaking from reality, the closest being the fairly Haruki Murakami-like second job where a coworker may be able to make a business appear or disappear by running bus ads (perhaps unwittingly), but each job has its own surreal quality to it with the postering job being by far my favorite. The book reads as if it could have simply been a collection of job-centered short stories, but Tsumura connects them with an overarching narrative that helps make them something greater than the sum of their parts.

While the book is specifically about Japanese work-culture, something unique and (I’ve been told) more strenuous than the US, it deals in universal existential quandaries of work life that are sure to strike a chord. Work-burnout is real, and seems to be an ever-amalgamating issue as jobs demand more of workers. A recent study in the US showed that 3 in 5 employees report negative impacts of work burnout and 61% of employees say burnout has worsened since the Covid pandemic, returning to regular work with higher expectations, longer hours little increase in pay. Throughout the novel we see many succumb to burnout, with the narrator often being their replacement. Even something seemingly simple as a favorite sports player leaving can be the final straw that makes someone’s already-overworked-and-weary emotional house of cards collapse. Almost everyone in the book seems to be barely holding on.
Nobody's life was untouched by loneliness; it was just a question of weather or not you were able to accept that loneliness for what it was. Put another way, everyone was lonely, and it was up to them whether they chose to bury that loneliness through relationships with other people, and if so, of what sort of intensity and depth.

It almost seems one must either commit fully to a job and let it become them or burnout. We see how something like a lunch group can abate the loneliness, and in each job the narrator finds herself in a new social structure around her job. I find it all too true how a job makes you see the world around you, even otherwise familiar places, in a new light. The world unlocks places or people you never knew were there and you discover vague society of psychographically linked people around the job (like in the cracker package job). I enjoy the way the narrator is often marketing to herself, craving the same meals as the author she watches on the spy camera, or riding the bus and eating at the restaurants from her ad job. And each has its own social structure with employees the narrator is acutely aware of, some more intense where ‘Staff votes left me so much at the mercy of others,’ and some with more freedom but little direction.

Yes I’d grown to be crafty, and boy did I work for it.

With each job we see how it’s inevitable to become too invested. Ideas or possible mysteries catch her attention (is there a ghost in the park? How to stop the predator lurking at bus stops?) and lead to obsessions, and it even explores that awkward feeling that spending your own money is needed to get a feel for the job. I was gripped by the story of the postering job turning into a rivalry with the ominous, vaguely threatening and ‘self-aggrandizing’ vibes of the Lonely No More group that seemed to prey on the loneliness of older people on her route and couldn’t put down the book as I was just as invested in her figuring out who they were as she was. There is this excellently executed off-putting vibe that reminded my of college youth groups marketing themselves in the dorm halls where you’d feel bad at first when people were mean to them but then saw they sort of got off on it in a weird way and it just…felt eerie and awkward. Had this section been expanded as an entire novel I would not have minded. Each story stands as uniquely awesome (the middle few the best) but this one just hit the mark for me. I also found it interesting how much the novel hinted at privatization putting a lot of social service duties on untrained employees who end up looking for missing people or stopping a wave of crime.

There Is No Such Thing as an Easy Job was a blast of joy in my life that I needed just as much as the Spring sunshine finally arriving that coincided with reading this book. It’s offbeat and vaguely dark, but in a way that comforts me deeply and completely harmonizes with my own impressions on job cultures. The narrator’s personal life is teased out through the book, making her almost only a product of her employment than a person at times, but the reveal of her past career also brilliantly puts much of the narrative and her brand of observations into an even more meaningful context than I’d imagined. This was a blast and I honestly didn’t want it to ever end, slowly savoring each section and being as engulfed within the individual job culture as the narrator herself. While there is no easy job, this also arrives at some resignated conclusions about work (though I would have preferred more of a condemnation but hey) and this book is a lovely companion to help see you through all the absurdities and surrealism of your daily grind.


Also a huge shoutout to Nenia for co-reading this with me! Read her amazing review here!
Profile Image for Blair.
1,794 reviews4,433 followers
November 30, 2020
This book is quite odd, but I really liked it. It seemed tailored quite specifically to my tastes and preferences, as though someone had taken my heavily customised order in a book café: so you want irreverent narration, a story in which not much really happens but there are constant undercurrents of weirdness, a protagonist the same age as you, a lot of happily solitary characters, a few things that will make you laugh out loud, and no romance at all? Coming right up.

There's No Such Thing as an Easy Job is told through several episodes in the life of a 36-year-old woman who has suffered burnout, abandoned her career, and moved back in with her parents. She asks her recruiter to find her an easy job. 'I wanted a job that was practically without substance, a job that sat on the borderline between being a job and not.' The five chapters – each of which would work as a self-contained short story – see her taking on a series of temporary roles: checking surveillance footage; writing scripts for voice ads played on buses; writing copy for cracker wrappers; putting up posters; and monitoring a quiet segment of a large public park.

And that's about all there is to it. Despite the seemingly topical setup (burnout, financial concerns, an older millennial protagonist), encapsulated in lines such as 'Money was of utmost importance to me right now. I had no idea when I might burn out next', this is not a novel that seeks to say anything about either its protagonist or society in general. The narrator remains nameless; her friends and parents are mentioned only in passing; we don't find out the nature of her previous job until the very end of the story, and we learn little about what burnout was like for her.

I loved the narrator almost instantly. Her dry, deadpan humour was hilarious to me. Another thing I liked was the messy, expressive way she describes feelings:

... There was awe there, and anger, and something that felt like those two things combined in equal parts, and then an oh-come-off-it! sort of feeling, a strange sense of respect, some astonishment, not to mention an awareness that I was still terrified and wanted fuck all to do with this affair. All of these combined to form a dirty-green-coloured feeling that filled my chest.

I enjoyed all the stories/chapters, but the second, 'The Bus Advertising Job', was an easy favourite. It's filled with the kind of non-specific strangeness I adore in fiction (there's a suggestion that one of the narrator's coworkers has some sort of magical power, and I couldn't get enough of it). In general, I liked reading about the narrator's relationships with her colleagues – tenuous friendships, uneasy alliances, very true to the universal workplace experience. There are a lot of likeable people in this book; most of them are a little eccentric. I loved watching these characters go about their everyday lives and find moments of joy in the most unexpected things.

The translation is unusual: where most translated literature opts for a sort of neutral English, in this case it's very clear that it's been translated by a British English speaker, and there are lots of Britishisms in the text. I will say that don't think it will work for everyone. But once I'd adjusted to it, I really appreciated it. Because it's consistent, it creates a very distinct identity for the narrator and for the novel.

Comparisons to Convenience Store Woman are perhaps inevitable, but mainly because this is a Japanese novel about a woman who rejects what's expected of her (career-wise, at least). Kikuko Tsumura's narrator and plot don't bear much resemblance to Sayaka Murata's. Another obvious reference is Temporary (same setup, much more surreal), but I was most reminded of meandering, oddly charming novels of modern life such as Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere and The New Me.

I received an advance review copy of There's No Such Thing as an Easy Job from the publisher through NetGalley.

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Profile Image for Tim.
477 reviews660 followers
June 22, 2021
A young woman walks into an employment agency and requests a job that has the following traits: it is close to her home, and it requires no reading, no writing – and ideally, very little thinking. She's had a complete burnout after her previous job and just wants something that doesn't feel like work at all. Something she can go to and leave without putting much effort into. We follow her over the course of five jobs; from mundane to bizarre.

Though it is a novel, it does have a short story feel because of the structure. Each section of the book covers one job, and each one introduces us to a new cast of characters for our lead to interact with. I honestly was really enjoying this from the start. I found the first job interesting, the second a delightful bit of possible magical realism, the third extremely entertaining and the fourth darkly fascinating. I was about ready to give it four or possibly even five stars as I was just enjoying it all around. Then the final job hit and had it been a short story collection I would have given that section one… maybe two stars if I was being generous. I didn't find the cast of that section interesting (in contrast I loved most of the characters we were introduced to in the other jobs), I found the main focus of the job tedious, the mystery aspect boring and the end a bit on the preachy side.

The book is very readable and an easy going sort of read. It's not a book I would care to analyze as it really is just the sort of thing I'd read to relax and turn off my brain just a bit. It's a book that at times feels like it's about nothing in particular and has little in terms of "action" going on… but it's consistently enjoyable (until that last job) and was always holding my interest. It's not a book I can recommend to everyone, but I do not regret my time with it. I only wish that last job was more interesting, then it could have had a much higher rating. Still, with the four jobs prior to that last, it still gets a 3/5 stars.
Profile Image for Henk.
875 reviews
February 13, 2023
Reads like a breeze but I didn’t feel that the five loosely connected stories, of people being in general nicer than one imagines upfront, added up to something more in this novel
Accepting those ups and downs, choosing to take on difficult jobs - that’s what life is about.

I feel the first story was actually not really needed (or doesn't resonate with the rest of the book) which is a shame because the deadpan tone and sarcasm in that part was my favoriet while reading. Like:
Walking back down the corridor it occurred to me that ‘We’re counting on you!’ and ‘You should rest!’ were actually contradictory messages, and a lump formed in my throat. Which did she really mean? Or did she mean neither?

Kikuko Tsumura her book reminds me of My Year of Rest and Relaxation from Ottessa Moshfegh, it features a burnt out young woman, not sleeping this time but looking for an easy job (I wanted a job that was practically without substance, a job that sat on the borderline between being a job and not). We are taken along bizarre jobs, like surveillance job on an author (apparently no GDPR in Japan), where the main character is like a jibakurei, a ghost bound to its place in observing someone’s life.

The second story about a recording job for local adverts in a small town buss service is sweet and slightly magical, with a wholesome end to it. And this continues for the rest of There's No Such Thing as an Easy Job, it might be seen as a commentary on women being all part-timers and in menial jobs, but to be fair everything is quite okay for the protagonist.
The cracker wrapper job is really interesting for me as an auditor, again something that in all fairness I think would be outsourced in any Western company. It sounds amazing anyway, I don’t get why she wanted to move on from that.
The main character here actually seems a bit whiny for letting the job go.

In the end the book reads very easy but just didn't work to a very satisfying (or surprising) conclusion, beside a very sweet version of "the journey is the destination", "everyone struggles" and "there are good people everywhere".
Still an entertaining read with a delightful cover and sufficient fun for any office worker to warrant picking up.
Profile Image for emma.
1,869 reviews54.6k followers
December 14, 2022
ain't that the truth!

this book is very monotonous and sometimes pointless-feeling and often hard to read...but...and get ready to have your mind blown...i believe that to be the point!

modern life and work and late stage capitalism in general are bizarre and also boring.

so is this.

bottom line: not fun! but not bad.
Profile Image for Kate.
1,242 reviews2,226 followers
June 4, 2021

I read this, quite honestly, at the absolute perfect time in my life. I finished my MA in december of 2020 and have felt incredibly burned out for about 6 months now - feeling overwhelmed at the smallest of tasks and finding it very hard to perform activities that I used to thrive in and love. I am also starting a brand new job in a brand new field in about 2 months.

Following our main protagonist as she discussed her own difficulties with burnout and the work force, and as she got job after job, it was so incredibly refreshing, eye opening, and helpful to see her thought process slowly changing, and how she came to feel about each job, and herself, in turn.

This novel is incredibly unique because I feel like a very large group of people will, like me, absolutely love it and be able to completely relate to it - but if you CAN'T, this novel is a very quiet, quaint, slightly boring novel with no true purpose or plot (much like every day human lives). I really enjoyed it, and highly recommend it for people who think they'll be able to relate to this main character!
Profile Image for luce (that loser crying on the n° 2 bus).
1,438 reviews4,048 followers
August 27, 2021
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Comparing this novel to the work of Ottessa Moshfegh or Sayaka Murata seems somewhat misleading, if a bit lazy.
There's No Such Thing as an Easy Job has elements that may bring to mind certain aspects of Convenience Store Woman but it has almost nothing in common with My Year of Rest and Relaxation. Still, I could have enjoyed Kikuko Tsumura's novel if it had something interesting to say or if it was written in a particularly inventive or catchy way. Sadly, I found There's No Such Thing as an Easy Job to be an exceedingly boring story that is written in an exceedingly boring way. Some of the issues I had may be due the translation (more on that later) but for the most part Tsumura's prose is kind of dull. Her protagonist, the classic unnamed narrator, lacks the deadpan tone of Murata's mc, nor does she have the same upbeat voice as the lead in Temporary (a novel that explores modern workplace in an absurdist fashion).
Tsumura's book is divided in five sections, each one focusing on a different job: in the first one our mc works a surveillance job (this happened to be the only section I enjoyed), in the second one she records ads for a bus company (advertising the shops that are on the route of that bus), in the third one she has to come up with 'fun/useful facts' for a packet of crackers, in the third one she puts posters up, and in the final job she works at a park maintenance office. We never gain any real insight into her private life (I'm fairly sure she lives alone and her parents are still alive) and we never learn anything about her past (other than she left her job because of burnout syndrome).
The jobs she are peculiar and yet they never held my interest. I liked Temporary much more because the jobs the mc does there are really weird. Yet, I think I could have tolerated reading about a relatively ordinary workplace if the dialogues or mc's inner monologue had been amusing, as they are in Murata's novel (which managed to make tedious tasks entertaining).
Even if I where to judge Tsumura's novel without drawing comparison to other novels, I still can't think of anything positive to say about it. The narration lacked zest, oomph. She recounts her routine in a very prosaic way, and she offers no real insights into why 'modern' work culture makes her feel so uninspired.
Usually when I read a translated book I don't really notice that the prose was not originally written in the language I'm reading but here the writing had this stilted quality that made me kind of aware that I was indeed reading a translation. Certain word choices struck me as awkward. There are many instances in which the narrator's colloquial style is interrupted by high-register and or antiquated words (such as nigh!). Maybe this was simply reflecting the original Japanese but I can't say for sure as I'm afraid my knowledge of Japanese is abysmal. And yes, I understand that translation is not an easy chore (in the past I tried my hand at translating) but that doesn't change that the prose There's No Such Thing as an Easy Job offers some eyebrow-raising phrases/passages.

Usually I read books of this length in two or three days but it took me five days to finish this novel (and I nearly fell asleep while reading it...which is new for me).

Read more reviews on my blog / / / View all my reviews on Goodreads
Profile Image for Liong.
147 reviews114 followers
October 20, 2022
You never knew what was going to happen, whatever you did. You just had to give it your all, and hope for the best. Hope like anything it would turn out alright.

Not an easy job to finish this book for me.

A bit boring?
March 25, 2023

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I was so excited to buddy-read this book with s.penkevich. I've admired their literary-fiction reviews for a while and thought the idea of checking out this surreal work of Japanese literature with such a book friend was really fun. Especially since the listlessness and ennui of the heroine can be overwhelming at times.

Our heroine is a thirty-six-year-old woman with burnout who repeatedly goes to the same employment agency over the course of the novel to request more jobs. She wants something close to home with no reading or writing involved and, ideally, very little thinking.

Her jobs get progressively weirder and weirder. Her first job is in video surveillance, watching a man who may be in unknowing league with a contrabander. Her second job is working for an advertising agency for a bus company. Her third job is writing trivia that go on the packets of fried rice snacks. Her fourth job is putting up environmental awareness posters in a small community. And her fifth job is manning the cabin in the middle of a man-made park filled with fruit trees.

THERE'S NO SUCH THING AS AN EASY JOB is such a strange book. It's so strange that several times, I would set the book down and think, "Do I really like this book?" I considered DNF-ing even, but was unable to stop reading. There's an almost supernatural bent to some of her jobs, which can sometimes make them feel creepy (especially in the case of the bus advertisements and poster jobs), but it's never outright scary or anything, just in a way that makes the reader feel uneasy.

For once, I think the comparisons in the blurb of this book are on the mark. This really is like a cross between MY YEAR OF REST AND RELAXATION and CONVENIENCE STORE WOMAN. The comparisons are rarely that apt, so I'm actually impressed, because that's how I probably would have described this book, too. It's a book about how our jobs shape us and vice-versa, a criticism (I think?) about hustle/gig culture, and just a really interesting story about a disaffected woman trying to live her life as best she can. For people who enjoy character-driven stories, this will be quite the treat.

3.5 to 4 stars
Profile Image for Jessica Woodbury.
1,639 reviews2,155 followers
September 22, 2020
If you see that this is a book about work, about a 36-year-old flitting between strange and even surreal menial jobs, you would probably assume this is going to be one of those books about how we are all cogs in this meaningless machine and all of that. But even though this looks like a book about how work is a soul-sucking waste, actually it's the opposite. It's about the way we find meaning in our lives even when we are convinced we want to stay far away from it. It starts quite slow, so get at least to Job #2 to find your footing here, but all is not what it seems, either with our protagonist or any of the jobs she takes on.

Our nameless protagonist is very clear about what she wants: a job that does as little as possible, a job that doesn't matter. She ends up in all kinds of unusual positions, and the joy of the book comes in two ways. First, following each of these jobs as they became steadily more surreal, and second, in following our protagonist as she becomes very attached to each of them. She is skittish, we know she has just left her field after more than 10 years in the same job, that the toll that job took on her is why she has retreated to meaningless work for refuge. But it becomes clear that while she wants to feel nothing, she cannot help but feel something.

The CONVENIENCE STORE WOMAN comp is a pretty good one, the books and protagonists are quite different, but I think they appeal to similar readers. It's a book that I suspect will particularly impact millennial readers (the cover clearly thinks so, it has them squarely in its sights) because our protagonist sees her retreat from work as a rational and natural thing to do. If you are new to Japanese fiction in translation, you'll want to give yourself longer to get situated with the prose and style. I admit I almost put this down during job #1 because it was moving rather slowly and I wondered what the point was. I saw some negative reviews on this page and I found myself rooting for the book and sticking with it. And I'm glad I did! It's quite rewarding, and just when it feels like there is no way this book can end in a way that feels satisfying, it pulls you out of this endless loop and gives you a really emotionally fulfilling close.
Profile Image for JimZ.
1,062 reviews495 followers
May 22, 2021
I came to like this book. I thought the author was pretty funny at times. When she writes another novel, which I hope she does, I’ll be right in line to get it and read it. 😊

This was a quiet read, and maybe I needed that, and it influenced my rating. But it was good writing, and while nothing much happened in this novel, I was immersed in the character (she was believable) and all of its characters.

I spied this book sitting on the library shelf when I was picking up my stash of books. I always go to the new book section because you never know…there might be something interesting there…. 😉

It turns out that Polly Barton translated this book into English. I knew Polly Barton from Aoko Matsuda’s ‘Where the Wild Ladies Are’ (read and reviewed in January and I gave it 4 stars).

When reading this book I was already forming my review in my head….and to start whining that the book was too long, 399 pages. But at the end, that complaint fell by the wayside. 🙃

This book tells the story of a young women in Japan who seeks out easy, non-stressful jobs. The book describes the five jobs she lands.
• Job 1: Surveilling a person (he is a writer) in his apartment who was slipped some contraband in a DVD container unbeknownst to him, and authorities have bugged his apartment with a camera, so they can determine when someone is going to pick it up, so they can nab the person. The protagonist has the mind-numbing job of watching his every movement (or lack thereof) in two rooms of his apartment.
• Job 2: Writing copy for businesses that wanted to advertise on a circulating bus (a bus that traveled a certain route within the city)
• Job 3: Working for a cracker company in which she is tasked to write interesting facts on the wrapper of crackers “that will interest both 10-years-olds and their 90-year-old grandmothers”. It’s funny…when she is told this she tries to figure out the likelihood that a 90-year-old grandma would have a 10-year-old grandkid…not very likely!!!
• Job 4: Puts up posters in neighborhoods and finds out she’s in competition with a company that puts up posters for their scam project of ripping old lonely people off.
• Job 5: Works for a national park/forest, and her job is to sit in a hut on the outskirts of the park and pick up people who get lost in the park.

I know I am not being terribly descriptive above, but these jobs are not very interesting which is part of the appeal to her for these jobs. It appears she just wants to get by in life. A love interest is not mentioned once in the novel. She lives at home with her parents, but her mother makes only brief appearances in the novel. I like the character — she does not come across as a jerk, she appears to be well-adjusted, and .

So, why I liked the book was in part Tsumara’s writing style and she occasionally made me smile or laugh with her protagonist thinking funny thoughts or making funny observations… Here are a couple:
• Mr. Hakota, Mr. Nojima and Miss Kudo were all good sorts, although my only contact with them was the ten seconds when I said good morning to them at the headquarters, so I couldn’t rule out the possibility that they were actually bad sorts just pretending to be good.
• In the end, though, I didn’t read the magazine on the train ride home. It had been a very busy day — in addition to three lost people, I’d also had to deal with a man who’d buried his wedding ring on impulse in the forest, then decided he wanted it back and asked me to search for it with him. Frankly, I was exhausted. When I told Mr. Hakota (her boss) about the ring man, he calmly informed me that they got quite a few such people. Unable to bring themselves to throw away or sell their rings, not even fully convinced they were ready to get rid of them, they would come to bury them in the forest.

• Kikuko Tsumara “experienced workplace harassment in her first job out of college, and quit after 10 months to retrain and find another position, an experience that inspired her to write stories about young writers.”
• She has won the Akutagawa Prize and the Noma Literary New Face Prize, and her first short story translated into English, ‘The Water Tower and the Turtle’, won a PEN/Robert J. Dau Short Story Prize for Emerging Writers. https://granta.com/the-water-tower-an... (Granta Issue 148, Online Version, 9/2/2019)
• Very nice interview with the author: https://www.bigissuenorth.com/reading...
• Website for Polly Barton although it seems to have stopped at 2017 but it looks like there’s a bunch of Japanese short stories to read that she has translated: https://www.pollybarton.net/?fbclid=I...

Reviews (everybody liked it! 😊… ):
Profile Image for Elyse Walters.
4,010 reviews605 followers
April 15, 2023
Audiobook…..read by Cindy Kay
…..9 hours and 41 minutes

A quirky-wallowing 32 year old female has little to no ambition,
(other than she needs enough money to pay her bills) ….
…and embarks on a series of odd menial temp jobs.

At times, our unnamed protagonist felt so overwhelmed by such despondency, that her brain would fire up, and she would be on full alert….
I was confused - did our protagonist care about her ‘stuck-on-a-chair’ mundane jobs -
did she find them all dreadful?
or … was she ultimately happy that she didn’t need to be greatly challenged?
I wasn’t sure.

She would fidget easily ….
Her feelings were all over the place — but her scattered inner thoughts, and vocal expressions were a oddly interesting.

Burnout is as common as a morning sunrise—
jokes are written about burnout —
So — I read this novel with a lighthearted mind. I didn’t take any of it too seriously-
It was funny - but not hilarious.

A little too long — but I enjoy quirky Japanese stories.
It was not my favorite-but I liked it.

The title is fitting: “There’s No Such Thing As An Easy Job”….
It’s our ‘inner-outer’ selves that must interconnect together……day in and day out—
and what’s easy about that?

Profile Image for 8stitches 9lives.
2,854 reviews1,643 followers
November 27, 2020
There's No Such Thing as an Easy Job is a dark and comedic work of magical realism that moves seamlessly between moments of irreverence and moments of solemnity. It questions the quotidian tedium and banality of it all whilst pondering the philosophical and if life indeed has any meaning to it at all. It is award-winning writer Kikuko Tsumura's first novel to be translated into English and was very reminiscent of my all-time favourite writer Haruki Murakami in that it was ethereal and otherworldly as well as rather enchanting and a meditation on all aspects of our working lives. This is a quirky Japanese novel about a mysterious and peculiar 36-year-old unmarried and unnamed woman who has suffered burnout from her stressful job and has gone back home to live with her parents for the time being.

She visits an employment bureau, looking for the most undemanding job possible so that she can recover and rebuild herself. But she soon discovers exactly how dissatisfied she becomes in employment that is not fulfilling and in an attempt to find herself the perfect job, despite not being certain whether she wants it to be simple, challenging or rewarding work or a mixture of all three, she tries her hand at a plethora of diverse job in the hope of achieving satisfaction. Tsumura's book is divided in five sections, each one focusing on a different job: a surveillance job, recording ads for a bus company (advertising the shops that are on the route of that bus) and to find amusing and/or informative facts to be placed on packets of crackers. In the fourth job she puts posters up, and in her final job she works at a park maintenance office. This is a truly riveting and compelling work of fiction that featured a tonne of social commentary gems, lyrical prose and an eccentric and relatable central protagonist.

As a Japanophile, the setting was about as perfect as you could get from my perspective, and I could picture the cherry blossoms and smell the sushi from half a world away; it was an ideal piece of escapism but with an intelligent, cerebral aura to it. I'm not surprised Tsumura has won multiple prestigious awards in Japan for her fiction as I simply could put it down and before I knew it the sun was rising. The whole story has an inexplicable purity and rawness about it that is difficult to describe but that is only found in Japanese writing and only that of the highest calibre. It is a tale of belonging, modern life, identity, finding yourself and discovering your purpose and although humorous it is also both poignant and profoundly charming. I cannot recommend it highly enough.
Profile Image for K.J. Charles.
Author 59 books8,619 followers
January 30, 2023
Hard-to-classify book about a nameless young Japanese woman suffering from burnout. She quits her job and takes on a series of temp jobs, all of them marginally (or more) unsettling, in her effort to find a job that will be completely undemanding and require no emotional engagement or personal investment.

It's not a fantasy despite some slight fantasy elements, and it's not a mystery despite some mystery threads, and it's funny but not a comedy. Mostly I think it's a meditation on connections with other people: how we make them, how easily the modern world breaks them, how much they take out of us, and how in the end they're all the point there is. But it's much more readable and enjoyable than that suggests, so there we are.

Excellent translation, written with a view to fluency and readability in English, and has left me with a painful need for Japanese rice crackers.
Profile Image for Jenna.
249 reviews77 followers
April 3, 2021
2021 Book Riot Read Harder Challenge #3: a non-European novel in translation. 2021 Pop Sugar Reading Challenge: a book where the main character works at your current or dream job. (You find out near the end what her “real job” is that she’s taking a burnout break from!)
Profile Image for Zala.
334 reviews61 followers
June 10, 2023
“Walking back down the corridor it occurred to me that ‘We’re counting on you!’ and ‘You should rest!’ were actually contradictory messages, and a lump formed in my throat. Which did she really mean? Or did she mean neither?”

There's No Such Thing as an Easy Job follows the story of an unnamed woman in her thirties, who is looking for an easy job after having experienced burnout at her previous workplace. She goes on to work for a surveillance company (observing an author whose editor gave him some contraband in a DVD), write ads to be played on the city buses, write copy for rice cracker wrappers, put up posters (and unwittingly get into a poster competition with a sort of cult), and pick up people who get lost at a rather large public park. Each of the jobs had a chapter dedicated to them, and I enjoyed reading about them all. Though my favorite was definitely the bus advertising job, in which one of the coworkers had some positively magical abilities. I did feel that the narration occasionally lingered too long on some random minutiae, but it was easy to get through, since I was listening to the audiobook (though it really was beyond silly that the mc didn't know how squirrels eat nuts). I also loved the narrator's deadpan humor and practical yet surprisingly caring attitude. Some time has passed since I read the book now, and seeing as I still remember it quite well - with the addition of some nostalgic feelings for it - I've decided to bump up the rating. It has proved itself memorable, and that's something I tend to look for in books.
Profile Image for Katey Flowers.
309 reviews1 follower
July 3, 2021
I just adored this. As a Millennial who has struggled with wanting meaningful work but not always feeling capable of handling the pressures, and has experienced mental health crisis that resulted in a complete 180 on the career I thought I’d have... this book ~spoke~ to me. I don’t know how else to say it! The narrator was wonderful, messy, expressive, funny, anxious. And the story is so mundane and yet beautifully strange in all the right ways. I found this captivating, and read it in just over a day.

I’m only sad to now discover that this is the author’s only work so far translated into English! I finished the book wanting to consume anything and everything else she has written! Hopefully I’ll have the opportunity to do so in the future because this left me feeling seen and quietly hopeful, and I just want more!
Profile Image for HoneyAhmad.
193 reviews2 followers
October 30, 2020
This was such an unexpected good read for me and laugh out loud funny that I thot why the heck not? Have a 5! It follows the mild adventures of a girl who burnt out from her job decided to take a series of contract work in some random places. She gets a little too invested in some of her work, sorts out problems that are uncalled for, met some quirky people and eventually in a course of several months kinda healed herself. Within the layers of this book is a sharp eye for urban moroseness, loneliness and the fact that sometimes life can be just too much for us and it’s okay to take a step out of it and find your bearings again. Recommended.
Profile Image for Anna.
1,741 reviews676 followers
April 25, 2022
This deadpan novel follows a woman with burnout through five odd temporary jobs. It’s less surreal and picaresque in style than Temporary but has similar themes and spirit. The various types of work that the woman ends up doing neatly demonstrate how simultaneously mundane and strange paid employment can be. I liked the realistic way in which the jobs were never quite as advertised. Notably, one in which a product design role turned into writing an agony aunt column. In this book as in life, starting a new job means stepping into a pre-existing tangle of power dynamics, interpersonal relationships, and established processes that at first seem incomprehensible and bizarre. There's No Such Thing as an Easy Job is keenly observed and insightful throughout, for example:

"That must be really tough," the young woman said.
Amazingly, I felt my mood improve slightly. So, I thought, I’ve been wanting sympathy, have I? So far, the only person who’d offered me straightforward sympathy about the inappropriate relationship I’d formed with my work was Mrs. Masakado. I should probably have talked to my friends about it, but they were almost all of a similar age to me, and were also just gritting their teeth and clinging on as best they could, so it hardly felt right to drone on about my problems. Besides, I didn’t want to worry them. I had one friend who was currently enduring a situation even worse than the one I encountered in my old workplace. Whereas I’d ended up quitting with burnout syndrome, she was still hanging on in there. Even in the past, when my friends had been kind enough to say that what I was going through sounded tough, I’d always felt morally indebted to them in some way, because what they were going through was, in point of fact, tougher. In contrast, the sympathy I got here may have been superficial, but it came without fetters, and thus felt easy to accept.

That’s a very relatable millennial sentiment. I found the bus advertising job the most appealing chapter, as this had a pleasing mysteriousness. The final chapter ends the novel in a satisfying manner, as the narrator reveals the job that burned her out and appears to be recovering from that experience. I do enjoy 21st century fiction narrated by a woman that centres her job without glorifying it as a high-flying career. Such books examine the significant, often dominant, presence that paid work (OK, terrible, or a mixture of both) has on our lives. In this sub-genre I would recommend Temporary, Jillian, The New Me, and The Disaster Tourist. Each author on this list takes a distinctive angle on life at work. I really enjoyed Tsumura’s.
Profile Image for Schizanthus Nerd.
1,189 reviews248 followers
December 26, 2020
‘I’d like an easy job.’
I kept asked myself while I was reading whether I was enjoying this book or not and I still don’t have a clear answer. It’s an easy book to summarise: a 36 year old woman is looking for a new job, having experienced burnout in her previous one. Each of the book’s five parts describe one of the jobs she tries out in her quest to find a job that’s not really a job.
I wanted a job that was practically without substance, a job that sat on the borderline between being a job and not.
With a blurb that promised humour and made comparisons between this book and Convenience Store Woman, I had my hopes up. The funny bits, if they were there, must have gone straight over my head; no giggles, chuckles, or guffaws accompanied my reading.

I absolutely loved Convenience Store Woman and I can see why you might mention the two books in the same breath. Sort of. Both women are 36 and the focus of both stories is on their jobs but, while I loved the Smile Mart’s Keiko, I never really got a sense of this book’s cushy job seeker’s personality.
Whoever you were, there was a chance that you would end up wanting to run away from a job you had once believed in, that you would stray from the path you were on.
One of the parts seemed to be heading into magical realism territory but the others didn’t so I wasn’t quite sure whether I was seeing something in that part that wasn’t really there. This was a quick read for me but ultimately I don’t think it’s going to be a memorable one.

I’m rounding up from 3.5 stars.

Blog - https://schizanthusnerd.com
Profile Image for ·Karen·.
617 reviews768 followers
December 8, 2022
There are works that are obviously satirical. Bizarre. Surreal. My problem with this one was that I recognized the intent, but am too far removed from the world of work, and in particular the world of work in Japan, which, as any fule kno, has its peculiarities, to be able to grasp what it is that's being satirized.
I got that the protagonist is unaware of her own oddity.
Mrs Makado, a colleague at The Cracker Packet Job, analyses the protagonist's previous work related problem:
"So, what you're saying is that you felt the job itself was very worthwhile, but there was some interference that prevented you from properly engaging and building a healthy relationship with your work."

There's the nub: to engage properly and yet retain a healthy relationship with the work the protagonist is engaged in. That is a balancing act that is beyond her.

Frankly, there was a point where I put this one down and had a lot of trouble picking it up again.
Profile Image for Polly.
123 reviews25 followers
December 31, 2020
Swooping in with one last book of 2020 just before the new year!

Having briefly skimmed reviews for There's No Such Thing As An Easy Job, they are incredibly mixed. And having read it, I can see why. To me, it was... fine. But I can understand why some people loved it, just as I can understand why some people hated it.

The biggest issue for me was that it felt like a book of four (long) short stories, rather than one piece of continuous writing. And as I'm rarely a big fan of short stories and tend to find collections of them frustrating to read, this probably explains my indifference towards the book.

There's an element of mundane surreality throughout this book – with slightly odd occurrences happening in each of the four jobs that the narrator takes on over the course of the year, but the agonising aspect for me was the total lack of answers. And for some people that's probably a source of great entertainment, but I'd rather have my mysteries solved.

What was relatable was the narrator being a millennial who dives in head-first with huge enthusiasm to new tasks, only to become bored or burnt out with them fairly quickly. The conclusion of what this means felt a little unsatisfying, and was extremely brief compared to the length of the book.

This wasn't really the book for me, however I didn't dislike it at all! I just never managed to quite connect with it.
Profile Image for Queralt✨.
402 reviews78 followers
June 16, 2021
I think I picked this up at the best time (slightly burned out) and the worst time (stressed, depressed, and not necessarily well dressed). But I think it's just what I needed. There's No Such Thing as an Easy Job is an unpretentious, light-hearted novel that reminded me of all those "slice of life" manga I read when I was a kid - you follow an ordinary woman doing ordinary things and rolling with it. Part of me wants to say this book is friendly because it just made me smile and feel warm inside, but maybe that's just me (also, can books even be "friendly"? anywhoo).

The narrator is a burned-out 36 years old woman who quits her job, moves back with her mother, and starts working odd, easy jobs. Emphasis on the odd. She has a total of five jobs in this book (monitoring surveillance footage; writing scripts for bus ads; writing "fun facts" for cracker wrappers; putting up posters; and doing maintenance at a large public park) - boring, easy jobs. I tried to put myself in her shoes and thought I would never do this or I would ever take the job seriously, but she does. The narrator gives it all, excels at everything, and all the jobs end up resonating with her life. If you are like me, you may wonder why she tries so hard when the jobs are clearly dull, temporary, and unimportant, but I'd say Tsumura is trying to show "the journey is the destination" with the character development we get to see at the end. 

"The same was true of everything. You never knew what was going to happen, you never did, you just had to give it your all and hope for the best. Hope like anything it will turn out alright."
December 27, 2020
There’s No Such Thing As An Easy Job is Convenience Store Woman meets My Year Of Rest And Relaxation, two books I absolutely loved. The writing is wry, and a little bit weird, just the way I like it. This is a book about the quiet desperation of searching for equilibrium, the perfect note on which to end the garbage year that was 2020.

My full review of There's No Such Thing As An Easy Job is up now on Keeping Up With The Penguins.
Profile Image for fatma.
923 reviews656 followers
May 1, 2021
"I wanted a job that was practically without substance, a job that sat on the borderline between being a job and not."

Based on what I knew of this book, I felt like it was pretty much destined to become a new favourite. It had all the right ingredients: Japanese fiction, translated by legend Polly Barton, THAT TITLE??, that cover???, a "strange, compelling, darkly funny tale of one woman's search for meaning in the modern workplace"--it felt like it was meant to be.

Alas, it wasn't. Maybe it was because I had such high expectations for this, but I couldn't help but feel disappointed by this novel. There's No Such Thing as an Easy Job is not a bad book; it just could've been a much better one. Its story is split into five sections, each following the protagonist's foray into a new job, and an oftentimes very strange one at that: there's the surveillance job, which involves the protagonist watching hours of surveillance footage of a writer at his apartment in order to find out where someone stashed a Very Important DVD; there's the cracker packet job, which involves the protagonist coming up with and writing trivia on the packet of a successful cracker's packaging--really, all the jobs the protagonist gets swept up in are bizarre, not because they're out-of-this-world outlandish, but because they are so weirdly specific. Clearly these jobs are, at least to a certain extent, presented to comedic effect in the novel, but I think Tsumura also highlights that work is in itself a very bizarre thing. There is a job out there for every single thing you could think of, and this novel certainly drives that reality home.

What I liked about this novel is, in many ways, what I also didn't like about it. There's No Such Thing as an Easy Job is a very lowkey novel. It's not really concerned with reflecting on Big Picture stuff, but instead focuses on detailing the everyday life of its protagonist and her experiences with her various jobs. On the one hand, this is enjoyable to read about. Tsumura has a funny, jovial tone, most apparent when she highlights how trivial things can so easily become Matters of Monumental Importance when you're at work (there's a scene where the protagonist finds out from the guy she's surveilling that there's sausages on sale, so she goes to the store to get those sausages, but finds out that the sausages aren't on sale anymore because the footage she was watching was from the day before and it's a whole crisis lol).

This is all well and good except this kind of narrative style ultimately bogged this book down for me. The story started to feel too episodic, especially because each of the protagonist's five jobs gets its own separate chapter; you start to get tired of the same exact plot trajectory every time: the protagonist finds a job, she works there, shenanigans ensue, she leaves the job for whatever reason, and then she finds a new job, ad infinitum. What I was missing from this novel was some kind of overarching narrative, something to tie its string of events together. By the time I finished There's No Such Thing as an Easy Job, I was left especially underwhelmed because it didn't feel like there was a takeaway. What was I supposed to get from this story? I'm not sure, which is so disappointing because there's definitely something there; it just needed to be more substantially contextualized so it didn't end up feeling like a bunch of stories about a woman working at a bunch of jobs.

Overall: good, but could've been better. I'll keep my eye on whatever Kikuko Tsumura comes out with next, though. I feel like she'd be really good at short stories.

Thank you so much to Bloomsbury for sending me a review copy of this in exchange for an honest review!
Profile Image for Mobyskine.
939 reviews130 followers
December 20, 2020
"I'd sat down one day in front of my recruiter and informed her that I wanted a job as close as possible to my house-- ideally, something along the lines of sitting all day in a chair."

It feels like reading five novellas from the same storyteller but with five different characters, so earnestly told with easy narration. The narrator developed a burnout syndrome in her previous job that she goes quite specific and selective with her next job, although all five just menial and short-term it tells quite a view and detailed portrait of how a job is done.

From a hidden surveillance job to content writing for bus advertising and composing advice for rice cracker wrappers, she turns her preference to an outdoor job and venture into postering work and sitting in a hut at a big forest.

I find it quite exceptional and intriguing-- learning about one's ups and downs, of meeting new circle of friends, new environment and challenge, to bear a sudden burden and annoyance from working and to learn that nothing in this world as easy as we wish it to be.

Really love the narrator's character though at some point her raving (as the conflicts/tensions mainly from her works and thoughts) are too much but it was understandable. Mrs Masakado, the recruiter also my another favourite-- she's quite helpful and so understanding.

Fairly gripping and enjoyable, the narratives were crafted neatly and each jobs have its own distinctive (and mysterious) attraction. My favourite are both the bus advertising (honestly a fan of Ms Eriguchi) and composing advice for rice cracker wrappers (the most stressing out of all but the colleagues and surrounding are so lovable) jobs.

A very contemporary and relatable, kind of love the variety of jobs. Also I love the way each having own problems and thrilling encounters-- the dvd scene and the author's personalities, of finding out the suddenly appearing and disappearing shops, collecting idea on trivia, that scam group of Lonely No More! and bewildering incident at the hut.

"You never knew what was going to happen. Whatever you did, you just had to give it all, and hope for the best."

Thank you Pansing Distribution for sending me a copy of this book in return of an honest review!
Profile Image for Siobhan.
Author 3 books86 followers
July 15, 2020
There's No Such Thing As An Easy Job is a novel about looking for meaning and escape in the modern world, as a young woman looks for the most suitable job for her. After burnout in her previous career, a woman asks an employment agency for an easy job: namely, one that involves no reading, little thinking, and is close to where she lives. She finds herself sitting for hours watching hidden camera footage of an author suspected of having contraband in his home, in a job that is opposite where she lives, but she gets drawn into the author's life and also into how she can manage her own life alongside watching his. The narrative follows her as she moves between suitable jobs found for her by the agency, ending up in absurd situations like writing bus ads for shops that seem to appear out of nowhere, but it doesn't seem like an easy job is so easy to find.

This feels like a thoroughly modern novel, a fresh look at ideals of workplaces and fulfilment and looking for meaning as a young woman without direction. It is translated from Japanese and set in Japan, but a lot of the issues are universal, as she needs to find appropriate times to be in if she wants to get deliveries and deals with weird workplace politics. The book also has a fantastical sense, with the absurdity of some of the jobs and the weird circumstances bringing a kind of dark comedy to burnout and to modern ideas of what you should want from a job. It is amusing and clever, and easy to enjoy the eccentric characters, but also feel for the narrator, especially as the book draws to a close.

I don't really want to say this is a very millennial book that captures a moment of people being consumed by work in different ways, but it's hard not to want to write that. It has a kind of darkly comic existentialism about looking for meaning, even when the narrator is mostly looking for maté tea.
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