This is a short novel (176 pages, written by Sayaka Murata, published by Grove Press 2019; translated from Japanese to English by Ginny Tapley Takemori.
This is a book about a woman in her mid-thirties, Keiko Furukura, who works at a convenience store in Tokyo. The job is repetitive, entry-level, and predictable.
This has been her only job, she knows what to expect when she walks into work, and most importantly, she’s happy there.
This story takes the reader on Keiko’s journey.
You see, Keiko is a bit different–and she knows it. She is single, no boyfriend, no past romantic experiences, and she lives alone.
The reader may see traits of autism or obsessive compulsive disorder within the main character, but that’s not the issue.
It’s more about one’s personal journey and the expectations placed on an individual by family and society.
In Convenience Store Woman, Keiko makes decisions that may appear extreme to some, but are rationalized through the lens of a woman who knows she doesn’t quite fit into the stereotypical norm of society.
The author has successfully given us a unique and quirky character who, in her personal thoughts, is as normal as everyone else. The reader realizes that Keiko simply wants to live her life without drama, expectation, and judgement.
The story raises valid points regarding the pressures of conformity, especially for young women.
I lived, worked, and travelled in Japan and loved this book.
It takes me right back there to the bright, white, sparkling clean space of the convenience store that are on every corner. Everyone uses the convenience store and the depictions in the book are bang-on.
The story also took me back to the joke about being called Christmas Cake. Yes, when I first moved there, I was twenty-eight years old, single, no prospects, and far from home. These realities meant that I was unwanted and tossed into the back cupboard–like Christmas Cake.
When I first heard that, I laughed.
I was doing exactly what I wanted to do.
Just like the character of Keiko, I wanted to simply live my life the way I wanted. The entire spinster label and Christmas Cake description never bothered me, but I wasn’t Japanese and was truthfully always a bit (okay… okay… a lot) of a rebel.
If you choose to read this book, I’d love to hear what you think of it.
You don’t need to be familiar with Japan or know anything about Tokyo. It’s all right there in the story for you and really it’s about Keiko and her predicament–not Japan.
I listened to the audiobook, thoroughly enjoyed it, and would recommend this book without reservation.
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