When I open the shop
In his small noodle shop in Te Whanganui-a-Tara, a young chef obsessively juliennes carrots. Nothing is going according to plan: the bills are piling up, his mother is dead, and there are strangers in his kitchen. The ancestors are watching closely.
Told through a series of brilliant interludes and jump cuts, When I open the shop is sometimes blackly funny, sometimes angry and sometimes lyrical, and sometimes – as a car soars off the road on a horror road trip to the Wairarapa – it takes flight into surrealism. A glimpse into immigrant life in Aotearoa, this is a highly entertaining, surprising and poignant debut novel about grief, struggle and community.
‘When I open the shop is a novel about loss, exile and dislocation, in which time, space, and memory become a beautiful, fluid thing. It is very funny, angry and constantly pleasurable and moving in the way it depicts people opening space for themselves, and finding comfort, in spite of everything.’ —Brannavan Gnanalingam, author of Sprigs and Slow Down, You’re Here
‘This is a beautiful and compelling work. The language is magnificent on a sentence-by-sentence level, but I think that the structure is an incredibly adept act of decolonisation.’ —Pip Adam, author of Audition and Nothing to See
romesh dissanayake (Sri Lankan, Koryo Saram) is a writer from Te Whanganui-a-Tara Wellington. His work has appeared in The Spinoff, Newsroom, Pantograph Punch, Enjoy Contemporary Art Space and A Clear Dawn: An Anthology of Emerging Asian New Zealand Writers. His first novel, When I open the shop, was the winner of the 2022 Modern Letters Fiction Prize from the International Institute of Modern Letters at Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington.
Cover illustration: H Y Chai