Book Review: Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata

Convenience Store Woman

Author: Sayaka Murata
Publisher: Grove Press
Publishing Date: June 12, 2018
eBook, 176 pages
Amazon  Goodreads

Summary: Keiko Furukura had always been considered a strange child, and her parents always worried how she would get on in the real world, so when she takes on a job in a convenience store while at university, they are delighted for her. For her part, in the convenience store she finds a predictable world mandated by the store manual, which dictates how the workers should act and what they should say, and she copies her coworkers’ style of dress and speech patterns so that she can play the part of a normal person. However, eighteen years later, at age 36, she is still in the same job, has never had a boyfriend, and has only few friends. She feels comfortable in her life, but is aware that she is not living up to society’s expectations and causing her family to worry about her. When a similarly alienated but cynical and bitter young man comes to work in the store, he will upset Keiko’s contented stasis—but will it be for the better?

Sayaka Murata brilliantly captures the atmosphere of the familiar convenience store that is so much part of life in Japan. With some laugh-out-loud moments prompted by the disconnect between Keiko’s thoughts and those of the people around her, she provides a sharp look at Japanese society and the pressure to conform, as well as penetrating insights into the female mind. Convenience Store Woman is a fresh, charming portrait of an unforgettable heroine that recalls Banana Yoshimoto, Han Kang, and Amélie.

Rating: 4 stars

Review: This book was SO odd… That being said, I could not put it down! Keiko clearly has some sort of personality disorder, and she does her best to emulate the humans around her in an effort to appear normal. The day she begins working for a convenience store is the day she is “reborn,” as suddenly her life comes with a purpose – and a MANUAL! This is a short novel told in plain language, but it’s so quirky and kind of dark. Keiko doesn’t see why she should love her nephew more than any other child, as they’re all just interchangeable animals like stray cats. Keiko has a much stronger relationship with the convenience store than she does with the people around her. I’ll admit I was rather hoping that this book would end up with Keiko becoming a store manager or maybe creating a job to go help convenience stores troubleshoot problem areas and better maintain standards… But perhaps that’s the “normal” society in me putting my own pressures and designs on her. This is a quick but engrossing read, and definitely worth the time to read. It also made me REALLY hungry for some Japanese convenience store lunches!

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