Sayaka Murata’s Convenience Store Woman follows Keiko Furukura, a 36-year-old woman who works part time in a convenience store. Keiko likes working at the convenience store as it lets her observe the “normal” people she works with and mimic their behaviour in her own life. Whilst working at the convenience store, Keiko meets Shiraha, a fellow oddball. Keiko is wary of Shiraha but they make an agreement. They pretend to be a couple so that they can avoid problems caused by their families and society. A good idea to begin with, but Shiraha soon tries to change Keiko. He convinces her to quit her job at the convenience store and look for a “normal” job.
On the way to an interview, Keiko sees another convenience store. The store is in chaos and Keiko immediately starts to reorganise the shelves. As she’s doing this, she realises that her she’s meant to be konbini, employee. Keiko’s story is a tale of bravery, acceptance, and finding your inner peace.
At the start, Keiko comes off as an oddball who doesn’t care about fitting in and while this is admirable, she was a little bit too odd for me. Her obsession with uniform shelves at the convenience store and mimicking her co-workers made her seem almost alien. As the story goes on Keiko starts to accept her oddness and stops others trying to change her. This acceptance of herself transformed Keiko into a much more relatable character, even if she kept some of her quirks.
Murata’s style of writing is short and concise, mirrored in Ginny Tapley Takemori’s English translation. Takemori’s translation was easy to read, so I zoomed through the novel in less than a week (a record!). Convenience Store Woman is the perfect introduction to Japanese literature. It’s to-the-point prose takes you into the ever-fluorescent world of Keiko and the convenience store. The garish world of Keiko and the convenience store are a reminder of accepting your uniqueness and not trying too hard to fit in.
Convenience Store Woman is a great read if you’re travelling this summer and need a light book for your rucksack.
The normal world has no room for exceptions and always quietly eliminates foreign objects.Ginny Tapely Takemori’s translation of Sayaka Murata’s Convenience Store Woman