Days at the Morisaki Bookshop: A Novel

Image of Days at the Morisaki Bookshop: A Novel
Release Date: 
July 4, 2023
Harper Perennial
Reviewed by: 

"A slender book, but one rich in experience, exactly like the tiny, crammed Morisaki bookshop itself."

When Takako's boyfriend blithely announces that he's getting married—to someone else—the young woman is both stunned and completely unmoored. Since the boyfriend was also a co-worker, she quits her job, losing her income and what she thought was a close relationship at the same time.

Days at the Morisaki Bookshop is the story of how she finds herself again. Many of us have imagined how nurturing and fun it would be to own a bookstore. Selling books isn't just a business. It feels like a way to connect culturally to both ourselves and others. And that's what Takako discovers when she turns to her uncle and takes him up on his offer of a free place to stay above the family bookshop in return for helping at the store. The bookshop solves both of her problems, giving her somewhere to live and people who matter to her.

The change couldn't have happened at a more pivotal moment:

"When I look back, the word that sums up the life I'd lived up till this point all twenty-five years of it, is 'adequate.' I was born to an adequately wealthy family, graduated from an adequately good school, got a job at an adequately good company."

It's the path many people take, and Takako realizes her luck in being jolted off of it. At the bookstore, she not only discovers the many rich worlds that literature offers, she learns about her family and her place in it, growing close to the uncle who was almost a stranger before his generous offer. Yagisawa shows well Takako's passivity, her tendency to take the way of least resistance. All of the characters come vividly to life, but the one that is most lovingly described is the bookstore itself and the unique neighborhood where it's situated, a street full of used-book stores with an annual festival celebrating unique books and those who avidly collect them.

Takako, who hasn't been much of a reader before, is stunned by the revelations a book can hold:

"It was as if without realizing it, I had opened a door I had never know existed. That's exactly what it felt like. From that moment on, I read relentlessly, one book after another. It was as if a love of reading had been sleeping somewhere deep inside me all this time, and then it suddenly sprang to life."

There are many passages like this, celebrations of the joy of reading and books. The supple prose is clear and direct, yet almost poetic:

"I realized how precious a chance I'd been given, to be part of that little place, where you can feel the quiet flow of time."

Along with the lovely descriptions of books and how they engage people, The author sets Takako on a journey of seeing others more clearly, starting with her uncle and the wife who left him so abruptly five years earlier, and moving on to her ex-boyfriend and ultimately herself:

"I feel like I finally learned to see something a tiny bit valuable within myself."

It's a slender book, but one rich in experience, exactly like the tiny, crammed Morisaki bookshop itself.