Four linked stories portray young women who doggedly apply themselves to their work in the face of difficult personal relationships and tough economic conditions, determined to carve out a better life for themselves.
The title story tells of an unusual relationship between the 23-year-old narrator, Michiko Sawada, who works as a temp in the sales department of a small publisher specializing in instructional materials for elementary-age children, and her 45-year-old boss, Atsuko (“Akko”) Kurokawa, the highly capable manager of the department and its only female worker with “regular employee” status. Michiko’s boyfriend of four years has just broken up with her, and she is having a hard time concentrating on her work. The always observant Atsuko notices Michiko’s doldrums and proposes an unusual arrangement: Michiko will bring homemade lunches each day next week for Atsuko, and in return, Atsuko will pay for Michiko’s lunches and provide tips on where she should go and what dishes to try at each place. On Monday, Michiko finds herself at a lunchtime-only curry restaurant operated by a man who owns a design office. On Tuesday, she is given an exercise outfit and running shoes and told to jog a route around the Imperial Palace, at the end of which she finds an all-natural food cart operated by a black woman. On Thursday the instructions are for her to simply go up to the roof of their building at lunchtime; when she does so, the president of the company appears, and shortly thereafter a tray of fine sushi is delivered. It seems Atsuko has lunched with the president in this way nearly every week since she joined the company. Michiko had agreed to Atsuko’s proposal only because she didn’t think she could say no to her boss, but through these lunchtime adventures, she gets to know a side of Atsuko she hadn’t known before, and she recovers her zest for life.
In a breezy style, author Asako Yuzuki paints lively and refreshing portraits of young women in Japan today, highlighting their determination, resourcefulness, and originality.