Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata
Convenience store woman is a small, absurdly dead-pan novel by the Japan bestselling author, Sayaka Murata. On the surface, the book is a humorous, eerily beautiful unconventional love story which follows the adult life of Keiko, a Japanese woman who strives to fit in and be a ‘normal’ person. However, looking deeper, the book touches on subjects which are so prominent in today’s society, not just in Japan, but across the world; Equality, acceptance, judgment to name just a few.
‘What a pain I thought, wondering why everyone felt such a need for reassurance’
Within the first 11 pages of getting to know Keiko, and reading some of her hilariously dark childhood antics the book had me laughing and snorting to throwing my arms in despair at how the people who claim to love her, were trying to ‘fix’ her so she would fit into her surroundings.
Whilst at university, and still dealing with the struggles of fitting in with her peers, Keiko applied for a job at a convenience store. From her first day in training, it was here that her story to normal began, but also the unconventional love story. Finally, someone had given her a manual on how to behave, talk and ‘fit’ in, and in her own words she was ‘part of a machine, a cog’. Due to Keiko lack of emotional intelligence, this suited her just fine, she understood that to be accepted all she needed to do was to mimic other workers opinions and mannerisms, and believes that this is how other people live their lives. However, those closest to her were still not satisfied with Keiko’s life choices, being unmarried and working part-time in a ‘dead-end job’ was not an acceptable way of life.
‘People have a duty to fulfil their roles in society either through the workplace or the family.’
In walks, Shiraha, a good for nothing, untrustworthy, misogynist store worker. His life story is not too dissimilar to Keiko, but by God, it’s hard to feel anything but displeasure from the minute he enters the story. However, to Keiko, Shiraha may just be the solution to all her problems….
Overall, Convenience Store Woman is a charming, sharp and witty novel with the power to make you think about the world we live in. For me, it represented the fact that there is no such thing as ‘normal’, and different is what makes the world and its people unique, beautiful and interesting. I can’t wait for the next 9 books by Sayaka to be translated.
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