Tae Tanaka is 27. She quits her job to marry Shin’ichi, the man she has been seeing for four years, only to have him call off the wedding and break up with her. She is sobbing in despair at the side of the road when a no-nonsense, take-charge woman named Sumire Kitamura, “as commanding as a doberman,” practically picks her up by the scruff of the neck to drag her home and take her under her wing. Tae begins working at Violeta, a store run by Sumire and named after the Spanish word for her name. It is a somewhat offbeat shop selling a variety of handicrafts made by Sumire, including beautifully decorated jewelry boxes that are referred to as “coffins.” Customers place mementos and memories in these boxes?a worn-out fountain pen, some cigarette butts, a broken watch, a doll handmade by Mom, a cherished memory of a dead spouse, and so forth?and bury them in the store’s yard. But for some reason, Sumire refuses to allow Tae to place her engagement ring in one of these coffins. Tae admires Sumire for her independence and dauntlessness, but she also can’t help feeling a certain unbridged gap between them.
Tae decides to stick it out at Violeta until she finds a better employment opportunity. In an effort to get past the heartache of her break-up, she begins seeing Kentarō Chitose, the owner of a button shop that is one of Violeta’s suppliers. Now in his forties, Chitose is a kind, big-hearted man who treats Tae well. It comes as a shock to her when Sumire’s grown son Rentarō comes home for a visit and tells Tae that Chitose is his father, but Chitose is able to ease her misgivings and the relationship continues with the apparent blessing of Sumire and Rentarō.
Although she lacks confidence and has a tendency toward self-abnegation, Tae gradually gains a new sense of herself through the interactions she has with the many unusual people she meets at Violeta. And as she gets to know Chitose better, she learns that he was abused by his mother as a child, and also that Sumire is racked with guilt over how she married and divorced Chitose in short order just to have a child. In time she realizes that the workplace and the companion she chose “for the time being” have become treasured, essential parts of her life. Instead of waiting around for something new to be given to her, she determines to “be here now,” doing whatever she can for the people who have become so important to her.
Both stirring and funny, this story of a woman learning to stand on her own two feet will work its way into readers’ hearts.