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Convenience Store Woman

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Meet Keiko.

Keiko is 36 years old. She's never had a boyfriend, and she's been working in the same supermarket for eighteen years.

Keiko's family wishes she'd get a proper job. Her friends wonder why she won't get married.

But Keiko knows what makes her happy, and she's not going to let anyone come between her and her convenience store...

163 pages, Paperback

First published July 27, 2016

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About the author

Sayaka Murata

32 books4,407 followers
Sayaka Murata (in Japanese, 村田 沙耶香) is one of the most exciting up-and-coming writers in Japan today.
She herself still works part time in a convenience store, which gave her the inspiration to write Convenience Store Woman (Konbini Ningen). She debuted in 2003 with Junyu (Breastfeeding), which won the Gunzo Prize for new writers. In 2009 she won the Noma Prize for New Writers with Gin iro no uta (Silver Song), and in 2013 the Mishima Yukio Prize for Shiro-oro no machi no, sono hone no taion no (Of Bones, of Body Heat, of Whitening City). Convenience Store Woman won the 2016 Akutagawa Award. Murata has two short stories published in English (both translated by Ginny Tapley Takemori): "Lover on the Breeze" (Ruptured Fiction(s) of the Earthquake, Waseda Bungaku, 2011) and "A Clean Marriage" (Granta 127: Japan, 2014).

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Profile Image for s.penkevich.
733 reviews5,005 followers
December 1, 2022
Unless I’m cured, normal people will expurgate me.

In 2020 the “essential worker” became a hot topic of conversation. As the world shut down, the essential worker stocked shelves, collected trash, took temperatures and kept society going. Yet, for all the praise justly bestowed upon them, these are often jobs that are disregarded, looked down upon and don’t provide much of a wage. Sayaka Murata’s hit novel from recent years, Convenience Store Woman is a darkly comic look at the life of--you guessed it--a 36 year old woman working in a convenience store and the many ways she is looked down upon by ‘normal society’. Having surpassed a socially acceptable age for the job and to still be single, Keiko is relegated to the fringes of society despite being a model employee. As someone who is also on the autism spectrum, she often has difficulties navigating what is considered normal, wishing there was a manual to life she could study and master the way she has the store manual. In this slim novel, Murata humorously and effectively skewers society for the inherently ableist and often misogynist undercurrents in socially enforced hierarchies and questions perspectives of normality all while also crafting a touching ode to essential employees who are doing their best despite our lack of care and attention for them.

As someone who worked in retail most of my life, this book really hit me. Keiko instinctively knowing exactly how to organize a display for optimal sales, charting your day around busy periods, picking up difficult hours when others leave, all these things are something I’ve lived and breathed my entire adult life. It’s always a pretty thankless job and something where being good and reliable at it usually becomes a sort of self-punishment when you get tasked with the more difficult shifts and added responsibilities and the verbal thank you’s are never echoed in your paycheck. I adored Keiko, and she certainly reminded me of people I’ve worked with, particularly when I was a manager at a Goodwill for a year. Each scene in the store breathed with life and felt true, an authenticity she was able to capture as Murata was working in a convenience store while writing the book. I could place myself in those back offices and felt deep in my heart the various employee reactions to corporate mottos and extreme instances about greeting each customer. While I’ve never shouted ‘Irasshaimase’, which becomes almost a mantra in the novel, the scenes around it’s use in the novel really rang true within me.

It also makes me think of the way we treat essential workers and make it somehow shameful to be working in a role like this. I remember near a decade ago working at a Barnes & Noble and how often customers would condescend us, usually on a supposed “education” basis (for some reason this came up there more than any other retail job I’ve ever worked) which was always odd to me as almost everyone working there had a degree and several were currently working on a Masters. A few years back I was working as a bartender at a wedding when, after spilling a bottle of wine on myself some drunk father commented to his daughter right in front of me “this is why you go to college so you don’t end up serving people” I had a degree and was currently going for another at the time, but I had to smile and hand them their drinks (this sort of thing is undeniably worse when the employee is a woman or PoC and all the intersectionality). So I really felt it when Keiko comments:
When you work in a convenience store, people often look down on you for working there. I find this fascinating, and I like to look them in the face when they do this to me. And as I do so I always think: that’s what a human is.

This is a novel for the retail clerk, the essential workers, and anyone who has ever been made to feel less simply for working a job. Shoutout to you.

So the manual for life already existed. It was just that it was already ingrained in everyone’s heads, and there wasn’t any need to put it in writing.

Keiko is a really empathetic character. While it is never specifically called out, it would seem that she is on the autism spectrum. Right away she recounts a stories from her childhood where taking a literal approach to something someone says lands her in trouble--such as hearing “stop them” when two boys are fighting and therefor hitting one with a shovel--and describes her confusion in not being able to process why people were upset with her. Her childhood is spent visiting therapist after therapist with them and her family attempting to ‘cure’ her, but for the life of her she can’t figure out what she is doing wrong. Luckily her younger sister is there to help her, with Keiko wanting her to tell her what to do, say, and how to act in social situations. And when she turns 18, she gets a job at the convenience store where she still works 18 years later.

The symmetry of 18 years is a nice metaphor for the dichotomy for Keiko as an employee and Keiko as a social being. Outside the store she is an outsider, while inside she is the star employee. The store does, however, give her an opportunity to observe how the “normal” people act and dress, with Keiko often adopting the mannerisms and clothing styles of coworkers she enjoys best. ‘After all, I absorb the world around me,’ she thinks, ‘and that’s changing all the time.’ As employees come and go, so to does Keiko’s mannerism, which she is embarrassed of when it is pointed out to her. In college I was also someone who absorbed close friend’s personalities, so I found the emphasis on this aspect of Keiko to be rather endearing. Keiko is happy working in the store, but society deems it beneath a woman her age and this push and pull between doing what makes her happy and doing what society deems acceptable begins to pull her apart.

The store starts to appear as a microcosm of the world for her. When new employee, Shiraha, shrugs off work, refuses to listen to his female coworkers and complains constantly (we all know this guy), Keiko asks him ‘Um, you do realize you’ll be fixed?’ Keiko sees employees all as cells in the body of the store, and the defective or sickly ones are discarded and replaced. Such is the way of a store. She accepts that her pay is solely to keep her alive enough to keep working and is constantly aware of her need to stay healthy ‘for the store.’ While this subtly points to how jobs don’t provide a living wage and keep employees trapped in the lower classes, it also makes her realize that she too will eventually be replaced.
When you do physical labor, you end up being no longer useful when your physical condition deteriorates. However hard I work, however dependable I am, when my body grows old then no doubt I too will be a worn-out part, ready to be replaced, no longer of any use to the convenience store.

The extreme ableism in a work culture such as this is perpetuating a class of ‘undesirables’ and outsiders. Keiko notes that this is how social life is too, and while she may still be a star employee, in her social life she is constantly exposed as ‘not normal’ and criticized openly for it. Keiko has no interest in sexual relations--shoutout to anyone who is ace, you are valid and I support you--yet constantly told ‘deep down you must be getting desperate.’ To be an outsider, Keiko finds, is also to be bombarded with opinions on how you should live your life and to be always making excuses for yourself instead of able to just embrace your own being. ‘The normal world has no room for exceptions and always quietly eliminates foreign objects,’ she thinks, despairing, ‘anyone who is lacking is disposed of.’ This is, understandably, a difficult impasse of an existential crisis, particularly for one who wants to just be themself and work their job with pride.

The specific form of what is considered an “ordinary person” had been there all along, unchanged since prehistoric times I finally realized.

This perspective is only amplified when Keiko converses with Shiraha who spends all his time ranting about how society discards the outsiders. Shiraha is obsessed with his theory of tribalism and that humans haven’t changed ‘since the Stone Age’ of discarding the weak and outsiders. While he isn’t exactly wrong about society being oppressive, Keiko concedes, he himself is part of the problem (one of my favorite scenes in The Big Lebowski is Jeff Bridges saying ‘You’re not wrong, Walter, you’re just an asshole”) as he reinforces misogyny and he doesn’t want to dismantle the oppressive structures but instead climb them to be an oppressor. Shiraha is essentially an Incel with his combination of sexual predator nature combined with a massive victim complex and is fired after harassing woman employees and then stalking a woman customer. He himself says he only got a job he considers beneath him to meet women. Like a Jordan Peterson fanatic, he views all of life as a masculine hierarchy set against him where the strong men get the spoils and men like him are oppressed, while also claiming women have ‘a cushy time of it’ and regards them only as sexual objects to be obtained for social clout. He goes so far as to compare being an outsider among men as being raped.
I considered him one step short of being a sex offender, but here he was likening his own suffering to sexual assault without sparing a thought for all the trouble he’d caused for women store workers and customers. He seemed to have this odd circuitry in his mind that allowed him to see himself only as the victim and never the perpetrator…

This description tracks with philosopher Kate Manne’s analysis on Incel behavior as men ‘looking for an unjust hierarchy to locate themselves on, thereby vindicating their preexisting feelings of inferiority and aggrieved resentment...a post hoc rationalization for an extant, and unwarranted, sense of victimhood.

Despite Shiraha’s completely repulsive behavior and personality, Keiko sees how he may be useful. She can keep him ‘hidden from society’ in her apartment because having a man live there will raise her ‘normalcy’ in other’s eyes. ‘It appears that if a man and a woman are alone in an apartment together, people’s imaginations run wild and they’re satisfied regardless of the reality,’ she says. Because he is homeless, Shiraha agrees (though adding that he wouldn’t sleep with her because she is so beneath him like the scumbag Incel he is).

She's far happier thinking her sister is normal, even if she has a lot of problems, than she is having an abnormal sister for whom everything is fine.

Here we see how social norms are a frail playacting. ‘I was beginning to lose track of what “society” actually was,’ she thinks, ‘ I even had the feeling it was all an illusion.’ What is sad is how once she has penetrated the illusion, her perceptions on everyone around her crumbles as does her world. The people she respects at work are revealed as gossips more interested in social interaction than doing a job, which is devastating to her, and her plans go inevitably awry. However, I found the conclusion of the novel to be hopeful and empowering, especially as it validates essential workers as being something to be proud of.

All in all, Sayaka Murata has crafted a brilliant little gem that quickly cuts to the heart of society and exposes normality and social hierarchy as a mere facade for oppression. This is one for the outsiders, the “losers” (as Shiraha is quick to call people), those making ends meet while rightfully believing they are still dignified. It is deeply and darkly comical but is written with such an earnest and light touch that it reverberates in your soul like the sun breaking through the clouds as you step out of work. Poignant, hopeful and empowering, Convenience Store Woman is a winner.

4.5/5

I wished I was back in the convenience store where I was valued as a working member of staff and things weren’t as complicated as this. Once we donned our uniforms, we were all equals regardless of gender, age, or nationality— all simply store workers.
Profile Image for Sam Quixote.
4,425 reviews12.7k followers
August 3, 2018
Keiko has worked at the convenience store her entire adult life. But as she nears 40, the pressure to find a “real” job or get married is mounting – what sort of life awaits Keiko outside the comfort zone of the store and will she step out to meet it?

I feel like there’s a good novel somewhere in Convenience Store Woman but Sayaka Murata didn’t realise it. Her commentary on conformist society and the individual is inane and unoriginal though far worse is her muddled placement of the main character within that commentary.

It’s never explicitly stated but Keiko is obviously autistic. She doesn’t understand human behaviour, talks repeatedly about the mask/disguise she wears and takes her cues from her peers, mimicking their body language, speech patterns and dress to pass as “normal” – not that she cares all that much about being “normal” but she feels life is easier if that’s how people perceive her. She comes off as robotic and unemotional. She has no interest in sex or relationships in general. She works, thinks and lives mechanically. She even has her sister come up with lines for her to repeat in social situations to seem like a “normal” person.

She’s practical to a fault. An anecdote from her childhood (which also shows that her behaviour is not the result of working in a convenience store): two boys are fighting in the schoolyard, someone calls to break them up, so Keiko grabs a shovel and smacks one of the boys on the head, nearly killing him. She doesn’t understand – she broke up the fight didn’t she? Later on, her sister’s baby is crying and she briefly thinks that she knows a way to permanently stop it making noise and stressing her sister out. There’s no malice behind the thought of killing a baby, she’s just thinking practically without understanding appropriate social behaviour (though she knows enough not to act on it).

So I would definitely say that Keiko’s autistic, or at the very least somewhere on the spectrum. Not that anything’s wrong with that of course - but then what’s the novel’s point? Murata seems to be critical of a conformist society where certain jobs relegate people to cogs within a machine – dehumanised, essentially – in a society with far too rigidly-defined roles with no room for individual expression, leading to unsatisfied lives.

Except Keiko is happy to be a cog in a machine because of the way her brain is wired. And it wasn’t society that did this to her, she was simply born this way. She fully embraces the role of convenience store worker, as it’s clearly defined and therefore understandable. She could do without societal rules with its grounding in complex human behaviour, which she’s never understood.

Her character arc is non-existent. She knows her place in the world and she’s satisfied with it. She starts and ends as a convenience store worker. Something happens ��� which was completely arbitrary and never explained - along the way that takes her out of that setting but it only confirms her contentment with her lot in life and puts her back where she started. Is the point then that society should accept that some people are fine with/don’t care about “low” status? Or that the rules should be different for someone who’s autistic/on the spectrum, who clearly can’t handle/doesn’t want the complexities that come with more traditional ideas of success – high paying jobs, lots of material possessions, families, etc.?

I found Convenience Store Woman underwhelming as its ultimate message – you’ve got one life to live, it’s yours, don’t waste any time worrying about what other people think and live it the way you want – isn’t just a mundane, obvious observation but is something I took to heart years ago and I think is how most people live anyway. At least that’s what I took the meaning to be seeing as Keiko affirms her place in the world, regardless of what people think, and is more than ok with it. Unless it’s meant to be tragic as she tried and failed to “climb the social ladder” by getting a new job? But if she’s autistic, then she probably wouldn’t be able to handle anything else so isn’t she already doing the best that she can?

And that’s why I don’t think the conformity critique – if that was what Murata was going for – works well alongside an autistic character. Because conformity, regularity, mindless, repetitive labour, etc. actually fits an autistic person who can’t handle change. Maybe that message would’ve been more effective if Keiko had started out as a girl with hopes and dreams for a fulfilling career, a nice house, a husband and kids, and ended up a single convenience store worker. Except the novel is actually about how someone found their place in life right out of high school and has continued to be happy with it; it’s everyone else who has a problem with that.

So the novel is about a character who doesn’t change, a society that doesn’t change, and how both have found comfort in conformity, and the author’s conclusion to all this is… who knows? At any rate it doesn’t add up to much!

People seem to really dig autistic fictional characters these days – like the gay professor in that wildly successful yet desperately unfunny sitcom, and Don Tillman in Graeme Simsion’s bestselling The Rosie Project – so I can see why this would be popular. And Japanese convenience stores really are incredible. Their food culture is light years ahead of what we have in the west. Convenience store food is delicious and the selections are many and mind-bending – if you ever visit, you’ll be blown away with the treasures inside these ubiquitous shops.

Still, it’s generally a well-written book that’s easy to read and, for a novel mostly set in somewhere as ordinary as a convenience store and its day-to-day machinations, it’s never boring so credit to Sayaka Murata for that. Maybe it’s messaging is more relevant to close-buttoned Japanese society but I wasn’t impressed with it and found it left a confused impression. If it had been clearer and more focused, this would be a decent novel; as it is, it’s a jumbled mess.
Profile Image for Elyse Walters.
3,849 reviews34.9k followers
October 26, 2019
The moment I finished reading this story - I immediately wanted to know everything about the author- Sayaka Murata. WHO IS SHE? I was screaming inside about how WONDERFUL she must be.

This book is a GEM!!!!! Awe-inspiring writing — irresistible—and weirdly outlandish!

My gosh...I had the best laugh when I discovered that ‘our author’ —-one of Japan’s most exciting contemporary writers—[I AGREE,I AGREE] —‘really’ works as a part time employee in a convenience store. Talk about material for inspiration— Sayaka has first hand experience. Cracks me up! I love it!

I love Japanese Literature anyway ....and Sayaka’s storytelling is so marvelous- with humor - complexity of conformity- that I just can’t stop smiling about this slim ADORABLE - but ALSO VERY AFFECTING....( with sad undercurrents)...novel.
Who WOULDN’T enjoy reading this? I can’t imagine anyone not being consumed by it.

What stands out to me about our main character -Keiko (self- acclaimed different )- who has worked in the convenient store for 18 years, watching other university students come and go....and managers come and go....
is how deliciously self aware Keiko is. This girl is ‘not’ stupid.
I felt that even when Keiko copied the styles of fashion - and language
-jargon of others - demonstrating that she ‘could’ blend in—that mostly she was at peace with herself exactly the way she was. There are many ways to look at this story — the illusions about what society calls normal - and our human agreements about what’s considered a successful life or not...etc.

I adore Keiko. I hope the author writes more books about her. I’d love to continue to follow Keiko again. I miss her already. Honestly- I can imagine a dozen stories centered around Keiko!

The other thing that makes this book so special is ‘THE FEELING/THE AURA’ we ‘experience’. A GEM I tell ya, a precious gem! ......leaving us with much to think about!

*HIGHLY RECOMMEND*...it’s a quick treasure of a read!

Thank You Grove Atlantic, Netgalley, and Sayaka Murata ( I’m a new fan!!!)
Profile Image for Cindy.
407 reviews109k followers
March 29, 2022
A quick and easy read with an endearing narrator who doesn't fit societal expectations of what an adult "should" be. There were lots of funny deadpan moments (like her constant shade at the incel dude), but ultimately it reflects conformist society and how people impose their ideals for marriage and success onto others. I think due to the simplicity of the story though, it hasn’t stuck with me as much as another book would.
Profile Image for Roxane.
Author 121 books155k followers
November 2, 2018
A quirky novel about a 36 year old woman who works in a convenience store and cannot conceive herself beyond her job. But this is also about a woman who doesn’t know how to be human in the way others expect her too. At times funny, at times sad, always compelling.
Profile Image for Barry Pierce.
531 reviews7,082 followers
June 17, 2019
I am somewhat taken aback by the quotes plastered around this novel that reiterate just how funny it is. I have a dangerously weak spot for deadpan humour, but I do have to...worry about those to read Convenience Store Woman and found humour in it. This has to be one of the most relentlessly depressing tales ever put to print. It's practically Dostoyevskian. I'm going to have double my mirtazapine tonight.
Profile Image for Jim Fonseca.
1,073 reviews6,802 followers
December 9, 2021
This is a popular new book you have probably heard of. It’s short, almost a novella, by a Japanese woman author. The blurbs call it ‘darkly comic.’

Keiko is 36 and she has been working part-time in a convenience store in Tokyo for 18 years. She’s an excellent worker – a dream employee who loves her job – so much so that she even comes in on occasion, unpaid on her time off, to help out. She can’t even help herself from straightening things out in other stores she doesn’t even work in.

description

Keiko has always had issues – some would say she is mentally challenged or ‘lacks commons sense.’ Ever since she was a child she did things like this:

Yet she’s quite intelligent, good with numbers, and bright enough to understand how different she is. She thinks: “I still don’t have a clue how to be a normal person outside that manual.” [The store employee manual that she was trained with about how to treat customers and what to what to say in various situations.]

Keiko is socially awkward and has few if any real friends. Her sister gives her lines to repeat by rote when people ask her why she still has a part-time job after all these years or why she has no male friends.

But suddenly she is befriended by a male former employee who was fired for laziness and a bad attitude. He talks her into quitting her job to find a higher paying one and of course she is lost.

description

A good story with a predictable ending.

Photo of a 7-11 in Tokyo from www.ft.com/__origami/service/image
The author from wantedonline.co.za
Profile Image for emma.
1,784 reviews42.8k followers
April 12, 2022
You learn something new every day.

Maybe sometimes that thing is a life skill, like how to drive, or something classically school-related, like how to speak Spanish.

I do not know how to do either of those things, but I do now know that I apparently like reading about convenience stores and the people who are obsessed with them, thanks to this book.

And that counts as something I learned.

I will now commit a necessary evil and use a word I hate but one that is perfectly able to describe this book: This is very "quirky." It is not quite funny and not quite weird but it is somewhat strange in a pleasant way. And that worked for me.

The themes here, of how silly and restrictive society can be, how the success of a life should be measured by the happiness within it - however atypical the source of that happiness may be - and not by whether someone has met social benchmarks, really worked for me.

Also they hit me at the right time because I am a single 23 year old who is not working in a field she is passionate about, surrounded by people 10-15 years older who are nonstop having babies. It is as if having babies is actually the job, and I have been maliciously fooled.

This also made me wish a time when I lived two doors down from a 7/11, which is not something I have specifically missed before (due to the fact that things like "being followed" and "being addressed against my will" were constantly happening to me within the confines of that store), but I am constantly to some degree missing that phase of my life so it adds up.

Anyway. This was nice and I immediately bought a copy of it so I can own it.

Bottom line: Life is bizarre and this book is too! But the former in a kinda bad way and the latter in a good one.

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pre-review

my 100th book of the year! what a good one.

review to come / 4 stars

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taking lily's idea and reading only books by asian authors this month!

book 1: the incendiaries
book 2: last night at the telegraph club
book 3: dear girls
book 4: sigh, gone
book 5: frankly in love
book 6: emergency contact
book 7: your house will pay
book 8: convenience store woman


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currently in the opposite of a reading slump, when every book sounds good and you want to read all the time
Profile Image for Justin Tate.
Author 9 books862 followers
August 9, 2018
Actual heart emojis burst from my aura the whole time I read this book. Hilariously quirky, full of social commentary that’s nothing short of brilliant. Savvy author to deliver a great conclusion just when the premise starts to wane. It’s a 3 hour read that will stay with me forever. Genius!
Profile Image for Taryn.
324 reviews292 followers
June 12, 2020
Keiko Furukura lives an atypical life. At thirty-six-years-old, she's a virgin and completely disinterested in romantic relationships. She has worked part-time at a Japanese convenience store for eighteen years. Her family was thrilled when she was first employed because they saw it as a sign of her growth as a person. Keiko has always been considered peculiar, but the job helped her finally become an "ordinary person." The convenience store is "a dependable, normal world" where she's valued as an equal amongst her coworkers and receives no scrutiny about her personal life. Best of all, there's a written manual that tells her exactly how she needs to behave! She absorbs the personalities of her coworkers and uses them to construct her own "normal person" identity: "Infecting each other like this is how we maintain ourselves as human." Everyone assumed that the convenience store was just the first step in Keiko's journey to bigger and better things, but she's still in the same spot almost two decades later. The biggest sign of her evolution has become additional evidence of her deficiencies.

I absorb the world around me, and that’s changing all the time. Just as all the water that was in my body last time we met has now been replaced with new water, the things that make up me have changed too.


Keiko's atypical lifestyle causes discomfort for everyone around her. She's such an anomaly! Her family and friends are always trying to fix her, but she feels perfectly fine the way she is. The only thing that causes her discomfort is everyone else's judgment! She has a stockpile of vague prepared answers to defuse awkward situations, but those answers aren't working anymore as she ages. Keiko values her relationships and doesn't want to be cut off from her social groups, so she decides that it might be easier to just meet their demands. She doesn't even have to lie! She announces a life change and everyone fills in the blanks based on the standard story. Sadly, she realizes she never really belonged at all, even with the people she felt the most comfortable. As she takes a single step into normalcy, even her safe places become places of scrutiny.  Succumbing to one societal demand just leads to more expectations. Keiko notices that having a troubled normal life is more acceptable than having a content abnormal life.

“Look, anyone who doesn’t fit in with the village loses any right to privacy. They’ll trample all over you as they please. You either get married and have kids or go hunting and earn money, and anyone who doesn’t contribute to the village in one of these forms is a heretic. And the villagers will come poking their noses into your life as much as they want.”


At 176 pages, this darkly quirky novel is a quick read. Japanese convenience stores sound amazing! I never thought I'd want to visit another country and immediately run to a convenience store! The language is plain and some of the concepts were mentioned repetitively, but I adored Keiko. She has a cold, logical attitude, but I felt so warm towards her (despite some of her darker inclinations)! I really liked the relationship between Keiko and her sister and how it evolved throughout the story. This little novel also tapped into some deep rage! Keiko encounters frequent misogyny throughout the story. Keiko's experiences triggered memories of rude comments I received when I was a romantic late bloomer, during a brief stint at Taco Bell, and while I was pursuing an art degree. Even when I got a great design job right out of college, one of my professors responded, "Oh well! We all have to start somewhere!" Those experiences made me feel extra empathetic towards Keiko. The awkward scenes where Keiko is singled out made me cringe!

The normal world has no room for exceptions and always quietly eliminates foreign objects. Anyone who is lacking is disposed of.
So that’s why I need to be cured. Unless I’m cured, normal people will expurgate me. 
Finally I understood why my family had tried so hard to fix me.


The convenience store mirrors life; the parts change, but the whole stays the same. Perhaps we're still trapped in old-fashioned social paradigms, even though we tend to see ourselves as more evolved than people from past eras. An innate "manual" is passed on to everyone for centuries: get married, have babies, make more money. Anyone who doesn't meet those standards must be persuaded to take the correct path or be ostracised. Of course, even if you meet those standards, there's always something else to obtain. When it comes to making everyone happy, the goalposts are constantly moving! Keiko also notices there's always someone lower in the hierarchy. People who feel attacked find their own people to lash out at. Everyone, even her equals, is vocal about what's wrong with Keiko and what she needs to do to succeed. Will Keiko be able to drown out all the voices and accept her true calling or will she conform to societal demands?

Convenience Store Woman is a strange little book with an interesting protagonist! If you like this book, I think you might also like Nineveh by Henrietta Rose-Innes.

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I received this book for free from Netgalley and Grove Atlantic/Grove Press. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review. It will be available June 12, 2018.
Profile Image for Annet.
570 reviews709 followers
December 15, 2019
I'm so glad I picked this book up at Schiphol airport. Loved this book. Something else. Haven't read anything like it. I guess it is all about what is the expectancy of society of what people are and should be. If you are different, you don't fit in and people simply won't accept. Keiko is a convenience store worker for years. And she seems to really like it and is good at it. But people don't understand and don't accept it. And they don't understand she does not have a boyfriend. Admittedly, she is a bit weird. But she loves her job. What's wrong with that? Do we all have to pursue top career paths? Is it weird when women are not in a relationship? Do women have to become mothers? Those are the questions I got when reading this book. Loved it. So out of the box, yes, indeed, quirky, even surrealistic in atmosphere. And sweet. Great story & food for thought. 4.4. More to follow as usual.
Profile Image for Nataliya.
713 reviews11.3k followers
September 16, 2021
“At that moment, for the first time ever, I felt I’d become a part in the machine of society. I’ve been reborn, I thought. That day, I actually became a normal cog in society.”
Some may view 18 years spent working in a convenience store next to those who will move on to other jobs pretty soon a failure in life. Add to that being a 36-year-old single and childless woman in Japan - and you can just imagine the pitying whispers of those judging you behind your back. But for Keiko Furukura this seemingly dead-end job represents the essence of life itself, the place where she feels she can successfully imitate being “normal”.

You see, Keiko has always been a bit different from others. Somewhere on autism spectrum, or so it seems, she has not been able to pick it subtle societal cues and arrive at societally acceptable actions (for instance, she logically assumes that to break up a fight the most efficient way is to hit the fighting kids in the head with a shovel, which admittedly works but does not earn her praise). It is only in the store, dressed in a uniform, following a routine and cheerfully repeating memorized customer service phrases that she feels like she blends into supposed “normality”, finally becomes a cog in the machine like everyone else, and forges her identity as the titular Convenience Store Woman. Keiko is excellent at her job, and in the rest of her life she relies on copying the manners and dress of her “normal” colleagues and on exasperated advice from her sister on how to navigate life situations.


“When I first started here, there was a detailed manual that taught me how to be a store worker, and I still don't have a clue how to be a normal person outside that manual.”

All in all, Keiko is satisfied with her life. The issue is that the society isn’t satisfied with letting her go on this way. Society would like for her to be someone else - not single, not childless, not employed in a dead-end job. And if Keiko wants one thing in life it’s to be “cured” just like her family longs for her to be.
“The normal world has no room for exceptions and always quietly eliminates foreign objects. Anyone who is lacking is disposed of.
So that’s why I need to be cured. Unless I’m cured, normal people will expurgate me.
Finally I understood why my family had tried so hard to fix me.”

From glancing at the reviews prior to starting this book, I noted a few references to its dark humor, and the GR book description went even farther in promising “laugh-out-loud moments” — and that’s where I’m taken aback a bit as it wasn’t as much “lol” as “wtf”. To me, there was no humor - just angry seriousness of a woman forced to mold herself into something acceptable to others (and to a point it’s ok - the point that excludes the head/shovel combo) and yet it’s not enough to fit into those rigid norms that have been deemed to be okay.
“She’s far happier thinking her sister is normal, even if she has a lot of problems, than she is having an abnormal sister for whom everything is fine. For her, normality—however messy—is far more comprehensible.”

And to add to that all, she comes along a pathetic self-pitying parasitic guy who’d be labeled an “incel” pretty quickly by anyone even peripherally familiar with the term, who does not mind speechifying to manipulate Keiko while hiding his ineptitude and general awfulness under endless angry rhetoric directed at the society that supposedly oppresses him so much. And yet he still sees himself as vastly superior to Keiko, a woman, despite her being infinitely better than him navigating this weird thing called life.
“I considered him one step short of being a sex offender, but here he was casually likening his own suffering to sexual assault without sparing a thought for all the trouble he’d caused for women store workers and customers. He seemed to have this odd circuitry in his mind that allowed him to see himself only as the victim and never the perpetrator I thought as I watched him.”
————
“Up until now he’d been ranting about people meddling in his life, yet here he was attacking me with the same kinds of reproaches that were making him suffer. His argument was falling apart I thought. Maybe people who thought they were being violated felt a bit better when they attacked other people in the same way.”

If you’ve ever spent any part of your life working retail, you’ll recognize the attitudes Keiko has to put up with over her choice of work and life (I will never forget people who’d be either dismissive or speak with that exaggerated clarity that one puts on when talking to someone presumed stupid when I was helping them in a store in my last year of college, about to head off for my medical training; same people would sometimes advise me to enroll in college so that I could get a better job, assuming that retail was the best I could do). Same if you have no kids, or no partner. It’s not even judgment but that condescending pity that is doled out by those thinking that of course you should aspire to something else than what you are and conform to the expectations without questions. It’s that assumption that you are defective in some way, even if you are doing quite well as far as you are concerned.

So all I want to say at the end of this story is - go be what you are, Keiko, don’t fit your life into someone else’s mold, don’t allow malodorous incels into your place — and don’t bash anyone in the head with a shovel or consider knifing a baby to make it stop crying. You’ll be just fine. You are a convenience store woman, and that is just fine.

Shine on, you crazy diamond, as Pink Floyd would say. Shine on. Because what the hell is “normal” anyway?

4 stars.
“When you work in a convenience store, people often look down on you for working there. I find this fascinating, and I like to look them in the face when they do this to me. And as I do so I always think: that’s what a human is.”

————

Buddy read with Stephen.
Profile Image for MarilynW.
1,034 reviews2,571 followers
May 20, 2020
Such an interesting and different book. Keiko is different, not considered "normal" by friends, family, and co-workers so she tries to mimic what is supposed to be normal, just to keep everybody off her back. She loves her convenience store job, of eighteen years, her head and life hum with the love of her job. It's only when she feels she must change herself even more that she goes too far out of her way to be "normal" and her life falls apart. Yes, everyone else thought her life was meaningless and worthless but it was everything Keiko could want. And then she lets go of what makes her happy and it almost kills her. Thank goodness that Keiko finds herself and what is important to her, in the end.

Thank you to my library for the loan of this book :-)
Profile Image for Paul Bryant.
2,162 reviews9,031 followers
September 8, 2018
In Britain these things are called corner shops, even if they aren’t on a corner. My local convenience store is really not convenient at all. It’s small and cram full of groceries and all kinds of crap in teetering towers so you can hardly edge your way inside. When you are in if there’s anyone else there it becomes an uncomfortably intimate experience if you try to get past that person to the thing you want. Then there is the owner. He fixes you with a baleful death-glare from the moment the broken bell goes click clack as you shuffle inside. He is expecting you to rob him or shoplift or perhaps just knock down one of these towering piles of crap. When you make it to the fridge and grab the only thing you ever want from this shop (milk) he switches from baleful to mournful in a second and pours on the how can my family hope to survive when all you loathsome creeps only buy milk or a packet of biscuits or a packet of chewing gum? Do you consciously want us to starve to death? Is this your desire? He sighs sorrowfully over your single purchase. Then while cashing up he will begin his monologue which is entitled Why I Hate Running this Corner Shop. (You have to work 26 hours a day and it’s frankly no longer worth it but as he’s being doing this for 28 years now he’s not fit for anything else anyway no one will buy this business, he’s tried selling it, no takers, so this is his living death prison). You will stumble out (over the bags of cat litter by the door expressly put there to trip up the unwary) into the daylight swearing never to go back. But you do, when the milk runs out. It’s convenient.

Corner shops in Japan are not like this, not at all. They have aisles and are well lit and have friendly staff and special promotions which the friendly staff have been told to announce regularly throughout the day in loud but jovial tones : “10% off white chocolate all day today! Thank you for your custom!” with manic big smiles. Actually I’m not sure what’s worse, my miserable corner shop or the enforced Brave New World utopian stores of Japan.

In this teeny novel which I read in one day and still had time to do other things we have an Eleanor Oliphantish mid-30s woman called Keiko who finds she needs the rigid cultlike structure of her stupid dead end job in order to provide an exoskeleton of normality as she was born without the ability to figure out how to be a human being. Eventually though her family decides she has to grow up, get a proper job and get married. That part of normal is not, unfortunately, addressed in the Store Manual and so the fun begins. It’s a sad kind of fun.

But I do like novels I can read so quick that I finish them before I've listed them as "Currently Reading". Tolstoy could have taken a leaf from Sayaka Murata.
Profile Image for daph pink ♡ .
881 reviews3,019 followers
June 3, 2022
✒ 4.5 stars 💜


Convenience store woman is strange, absurd, audacious , a bit quirky but definitely a really nice and short read.

I personally think this book is not funny at all. It's dark and depressing. Its a character driven book because the plot events were mundane but that's where author's flair of perceptiveness come into play. It's like she's taking something mundane and making it compelling.

I love Keiko so much like she is sharp, observant, logical, talented and perceptive. It's like she can just exist there and still be likeable. In order to fulfill social expectations she try to absorb the mannerism and speech of people around which we all do. But when we read about it in such a raw manner we all behave like she's different. I connected to her.

I really like how she talks about the store. It puts such vivid image in your head. Her relationship with store was delightful. Like she can perceive events and predict the future events based on weather like which things will sell most today and what will happen next. Nobody appreciates the system because she was just a convenience store woman and not some doctor or lawyer or detective.

Read this book it won't do you any harm. Plus it's short.
Profile Image for BlackOxford.
1,081 reviews67.8k followers
April 17, 2019
Revolutionary Conformity

The Bob Dylan song ‘You’re Gonna Have to Serve Somebody’ comes to mind when reading this deceptively simple story. In fact, like Dylan’s lyrics, it is a highly sophisticated commentary on the need for human beings to belong to a social group, to have a role, and what happens - good and bad - when they do.

Miss Furukura is acutely aware of the details of human behaviour and speech but she has no emotional reaction to what she experiences. She must learn to fit in by copying from those around her, which she does expertly. She is concerned about her lack of emotional reaction but only because others seem to find it strange. Actually she simply does not make judgments unless necessary. She sometimes does inappropriate or extreme things in unfamiliar situations; but she is also punctilious on following corrections. Mostly she wants to be left alone to follow what she perceives as a happy and rewarding life as a single woman making her way as a shop assistant with no ambition and no serious worries. Except one - Miss Furukura finds the world frightening because it might deprive her of her way of living.

Shiraha is an alienated thirty-something, left behind in the credentials-race. He perceives the world as a jungle in which only the aggressive hunters survive. He is a prototypical Incel - an involuntary virgin who resents women because they prefer aggressive males. He also hates the society which considers him less than normal for not fulfilling his manly role. Shiraha is the inverse personality to Furukura. He is touchy and sensitive and judgmental of everything. But he makes no effort to conform or even to be civilly pleasant. He too wants to be left alone, to hide from the society which He wants to escape; she wants to avoid being ejected.

Remarkably, they each find an apparent solution to normality in the other. By allowing friends, family and co-workers to believe that there is a relationship between them, they suddenly appear to have the same social aspirations and mores as everyone else in Japanese society. They become normal. But instantly normality doesn’t become them. She quits her job; he gets serious about career and bread-winning. He also starts to exhibit Japanese machismo. The relationship between Miss Furukura and Shiraha, meant to be a ruse of convenience, entirely destroys their routine adaptations to the world. They have been absorbed.

The world accepts the couple because it believes that the couple has the same ambitions and problems as they do - children, money, advancement. And, if only briefly, the couple accepts the world in light of this acceptance. Until, that is, Miss Furukura understands that, however she got there, she is what she is - a convenience store woman, and proud of it. Sayonara Shiraha as well as the fears of her past and worries for her future. Maturity has arrived with a bang when you find it’s a necessity to choose well:
You may be rich or poor
You may be blind or lame
Maybe livin' in another Country
Under another name
But you're gonna have to serve somebody
Profile Image for Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader.
2,054 reviews30k followers
March 24, 2018
4 quirky stars to Convenience Store Woman! ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

Keiko was always a little different in her parents’ eyes. When she went to college, she got a job at a local convenience store. She tried her best to fit in by copying the other employees there, from their clothing to their mannerisms. Life passes by, and many years later, Keiko is still working at the convenience store. No one around Keiko is comfortable with her choice to stay there, but she is content...until she tries her best to change.

The messages here about conforming are profound. Poor Keiko goes down the rabbit hole of trying to meet everyone else’s expectations.

This is a short book, an easy read, and there’s a character to try to understand who will probably work her way right into your heart!

Thank you to my Goodreads friend, Taryn, for the recommendation to read Keiko’s story!

Many thanks to Grove Atlantic, the publisher of the most unique and quirky, well-written books, Sayaka Murata, and Netgalley for the copy. Convenience Store Woman will be published on June 12, 2018.
Profile Image for Debbie.
423 reviews2,683 followers
November 27, 2020
3.5, rounded up (but with MUCH internal turmoil)

I don’t know about you, but I never think about convenience stores. (Except, wait, right now I’m thinking about the fact that 7-11s don’t have bathrooms. How is that convenient I want to know.) Convenience stores are all Cheetos and lottery tickets, in and out in a matter of minutes. Hit the road, jack, head on out to your next stop.

Well, when you read this book, the convenience store is front and center. The customers hit the road lickety-split, like they’re supposed to, but one of the workers, Keiko, is almost a shut-in. Basically she’s married to the store, and the relationship has been going on for 18 years. Or you can think of the convenience store as her addiction, her God. This store, oh this store is her everything. She follows the rules and is obsessed with stocking shelves and creating signs to promote the special of the day. When she’s not in the store, she is thinking about it. She carries the store’s sounds around in her head—all the clicks and clacks that most of us never tune into. To her these sounds are like lullabies. And she feels like she is part of the store:

“When I think that my body is entirely made up of food from this store, I feel like I’m as much a part of the store as the magazine racks or the coffee machine.”

To say the least, Keiko is a weird duck. We get to see a little of her life as a kid, and it confirms that she has been a weirdo forever. It’s a buzz phrase these days, but I’m guessing Keiko is “on the spectrum.”

Keiko is robotic and passive, which made it hard for me to feel much for her. She did entertain me—many of the things she does and thinks are pretty funny. And she fascinated me—I definitely wanted to see what she would do next. In terms of a character study, the book gets an A-plus. Well, I’ll change that to a B, because there are two times when Keiko shows a dark side. One is an action and one is a thought, very brief. I just didn’t buy it. For a few minutes, I wondered whether the book was going to turn into a thriller. I don’t get why the writer went there. We know Keiko is weird. It’s not necessary to throw in an odd trait that doesn’t fit with her personality.

This book is all about conformity. Keiko wants to conform so much that she imitates people’s mannerisms and speech patterns, which becomes comical. Family and friends want her to act normal, and they won’t drop it. They want her to be married and they want her to have a better job. The pressure is on.

The story gets infinitely more interesting when a guy comes into her life. Their relationship is totally bizarro. Keiko and the guy have conversations about conformity, mostly meaning the guy spews his ideas. He’s a little pedantic and the ideas seem sophomoric at times. Also, the ideas are repeated too much. In those cases, the writing seems amateurish.

I loved the originality of the plot and the character and liked that it was told in first-person. It was a kick learning so much about Japanese convenience stores (I wonder if they have restrooms?!), and I loved getting the picture of the work scene there. Of course, I just loved getting a peek at Japanese culture in general. As often happens when I read a book from a different land, I wish I could beam myself up—and in this case, land in Tokyo. I would definitely head for a convenience store. Would I be greeted when I entered, like in Keiko’s store?

This is a fast, entertaining read by a popular Japanese writer. (A cool fact: The writer worked in a convenience store when she wrote this book!) The language is simplistic, which I sometimes liked but sometimes made me crave sophistication. I was going to say this book is lightweight, but actually it’s not because it drills home how society’s expectations affect your life and shows how people treat those who don’t conform.

I’m giving this book 3.5 stars. I’ve been hopping madly back and forth, trying to decide whether to round up or down. Even while writing this review, I’ve changed my mind twice!! For now I’ve settled on rounding up. The book is definitely way more than a meh, and because it’s so original, I don’t think I’ll forget about it. Meanwhile, I can’t believe I’m spending so much time worrying about (and moaning about) a stupid number! I liked the book—just get over it, Debbie!

I’m so sorry I didn’t show the contents of the Joy Jar and Complaint Board in easy-to-read lists, like I usually do. It might have made my rating problem easier! But I’d say the Joy Jar ekes out a win. Although the book isn’t a wow, I would recommend it, especially to those who enjoyed Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine.

Thanks to NetGalley for the advance copy.
Profile Image for Greta G.
337 reviews231 followers
May 13, 2019
Keiko Furukura is a 36-year old woman who works part-time in a convenience store and lives in an old, tiny apartment. She has never fallen in love and isn’t interested in a sexual relationship.
Although she’s perfectly content with her life and with the daily routine of her job as a store worker, people in her little social circle find her odd and put pressure on her to become more ‘acceptable’ by finding a decent job and by getting married.
Keiko realizes she’s considered a ‘foreign object’, but she doesn’t know how to be more ‘ordinary’ outside of the convenience store ; unlike a convenience store, life has no written manual.
”The convenience store worker mask is the only one I’m fit to wear. So if people don’t accept that, I have no idea what I can do about it.”
To be honest, I didn’t care much about this story. Most of it takes place in the convenience store, and the daily routine of a store isn’t all that interesting. The dialogues were repetitive and it also felt to me that the author tried a little too hard to put her message across, namely non-conformity, diversity is okay.

However Keiko isn’t just a nonconformist, odd or eccentric person. She seemed mentally impaired - possibly autistic - which made the message rather confusing to me. The way I see it, people usually have lower expectations of a mentally impaired person, and would be more than happy if that person has a satisfactory job and is able to live independently, so the message didn’t ring true to me and I agree with Sam Quixote’s statement in his excellent review on the book :
“I feel like there’s a good novel somewhere in ‘Convenience Store Woman’ but Syaka Murata didn’t realise it. Her commentary on conformist society and the individual is inane and unoriginal though far worse is her muddled placement of the main character within that commentary.”
Profile Image for Baba.
3,504 reviews732 followers
October 14, 2021
A conveniently funny, conveniently quirky, not-so- conveniently sad, yet overall almost a remarkable and quick read, by this seemingly great writer. I often bemoan the lack of 'new stories' being published; well, this clever yet simplistically told tale, told in the first person, with a dead pan styled narrative - the tale of an almost-psychopathic woman who uses her job in a convenience store as a control mechanism to civilise herself - is all about new story! 18 years into her ultra-self-controlled life, something happens to destabilise her routines! A convenient must-read for all, I kid you not. A convenient and solid 8 out of 12 from me :)

This one's a no-brainer. A book that I think pretty much any fiction reader would like; it is also a very accessible entryway to Japanese fiction for those that haven't tried it. If anything, we need to get Sayaka Murata's nine(!) other books translated into other languages asap!
Profile Image for Rebecca.
199 reviews143 followers
December 7, 2021
"When something was strange, everyone thought they had the right to come stomping in all over your life to figure out why."

Convenience Store Woman is about Keiko, who has worked at the same convenience store for 18 years. As she approaches her 40s, she's receiving greater pressure from her friends and family to be “cured", namely, to marry and settle down, and leave her part time job. Keiko, however, is happy in her life.

I savoured this small book. It's simply written and easy to fly through, so I was super careful not to read it all in one sitting. I love Keiko's world. She's very intelligent, adopting the characteristics of her ever revolving co-workers, believing that copying their way of talking and dressing will make her "normal". Keiko is incredibly endearing.

One thing that really stood out for me in this book is that Keiko is genuinely happy. Though everyone around her is telling her that "surely she can't be happy being 36, unmarried, childless and working part time in the same convenience store you worked at when you were 18". But she is, she really is happy. And I loved that. She knows exactly how the store works, and she thrives off that. I think it's a perfect way to show that it doesn't matter what other people say, that if you're happy with what you're doing then do it. Don't listen to other people trying to tell you how to live your life.

What an absolute little Gem of a book. I highly recommend 👌🏻

"After all, I absorb the world around me, and that's changing all the time. Just as all the water that was in my body last time we met has now been replaced with new water, the things that make up me have changed too."
Profile Image for Stacey B.
270 reviews58 followers
January 17, 2023
4.4
Loved this book and believe I have a different take on this story.
For me, this book is a sensitive and fragile story about an innocent woman lacking life experiences but owns the reputation as an outcast.
Keiko recognizes her limitations at the age of 38 as she is pushed out of her comfort zone working the same job at a convenience store for the past eighteen years.
Miss Furukura ( Keiko) has been coached and told by her family since childhood that if she would follow instructions to play the game of being a people person she would fit in. Try as they might, they couldn't mold her or convince her to want to be accepted in their community. It is evident they feel it is a reflection on them, and.. it is also evident "who"has the issue while Keiko continues to refuse their efforts.
At her job, she believes she is needed and truly accepted by her co-workers being safe in her environment.
In reading other reviews on GR's, the words "funny" and "humorous" are used often in many of the descriptions. I saw no humor in the daily life of Keiko and found nothing funny about this story.
What I found was a cast of characters having an absence of empathy while engaging in sarcastic conversations with Keiko, gossiping behind her back that takes advantage of her good nature.
In this respect, Keiko thankfully doesn't recognize bullying or sarcasm as an undercurrent. She has no clue these cruel remarks are meant to be mean spirited- made from adults no less. Nor would she recognize these comments would never be tolerated by anyone or those having fun at her expense.
I was extremely upset that not one person; anyone- with some semblance of empathy would jump in her defense.
My take is the reverse.
If Keiko cannot recognize negative feelings from what is said to her, she misses out on nothing. Lucky her.
There are many who think their own wants and needs are necessary for everyone and so the
"everyone-else's" will never understand or possibly agree that Keiko's choice is to live a life for herself in what makes her consistently happy.
Profile Image for Repellent Boy.
478 reviews494 followers
April 27, 2019
¡Vaya gozada de lectura! Todas mis expectativas iban perfectamente encaminadas. Lo primero que tengo que decir es que quizás este libro no va a ser entendible por todo el mundo. Es muy peculiar y es de esos libros que a primeras parece ser sencillo, tanto en su trama, como en la forma de contarla. Sin embargo, esconde en su interior algo mucho más profundo. Si te has sentido alguna vez diferente, poco entendido por los demás y, sobre todo, te ha costado entenderlos a ti, es tu libro.

Keiko es una protagonista atípica y nos irá narrando su día a día en su lugar de trabajo, un konbini. Estos son tiendas abiertas veinticuatro horas donde se puede encontrar todo tipo de artículos. Nada más empezar sabremos que Keiko es una persona diferente, bastante alejada de lo que la sociedad suele considerar <> y se verá constantemente obligada a fingir una personalidad falsa que irá imitando de las personas que la rodean, con la intención de no destacar. El único lugar donde se siente ella y cree encajar es en su puesto de trabajo.

La trama, como os digo, puede parecer sencilla, pero cuenta mucho más de lo que una lectura superficial conseguirá rascar. El libro es una crítica a la sociedad japonesa, y a las pautas marcadas por esta para que un individuo sea considerado como un ciudadano útil y como es rechazado por ella cuando se sale de la media. Y, como no, nuevamente la mujer se lleva la peor parte. Cuestionada por su trabajo, por sus estudios, por su edad, por no ser madre aún, por no estar casada todavía... Como digo es una irónica crítica a la sociedad machista nipona, pero curiosamente, y salvando los elementos culturales propios de cada país, no veo mucha diferencia en estas pautas establecidas socialmente con las de España o el resto de Europa.

Por otra parte, lo sentí como un canto a la libertad de ser difertene ya poder disfrutar de nuestras diferencias, a ser lo que somos y no tener miedo a serlo, ya que si dejamos de serlo aunque solo sea un segundo, nos volvemos vulnerables. Keiko es de esos maravillosos personajes que se van a quedar conmigo para siempre. El libro completo es una cita interminable. ¡Qué maravilla!
Profile Image for Beverly.
774 reviews266 followers
March 26, 2021
A very strange little book, Convenience Store Woman, is one of those stories that linger in your subconscious. You continue to think about it and ponder its meaning. I think the author is very good at putting herself in a different type of consciousness. The protagonist, Keiko, has never understood people and has trouble fitting into society. She finds her purpose in life when she takes a job at a convenience store. The store's manual gives her instructions on how to behave when greeting customers and in difficult situations. Life finally makes sense to her.

Keiko is a strange person. She doesn't understand relationships, or violence, or why it is not nice to kill a cute little bird or her nephew if he is making noise. She is a sociopath, I think, but she doesn't act on these ideas. She is not malevolent, she just does not comprehend human connection and empathy. For her, the convenience store makes her feel like she has a purpose. If only, we "normals" could feel as purposeful as she does. This is a comic novel, dark comedy, but you are not going to laugh our loud or chuckle, this is more the smile to yourself type of comic novel.
Profile Image for mwana .
363 reviews198 followers
October 1, 2022
This is the most popular book I'd never heard of. It popped up on my list of recommendations after I finished reading that ghastly book about poo and "hibernation".

The story follows Keiko, a young girl who grows up into becoming a convenience store woman. When Keiko was young, she didn't understand the basic tenets of... well, life. When she was young she provided very er literal solutions to problems that required nuance. One that had me cackling was
There was also that big commotion soon after I started primary school, when some boys started fighting during the break time. The other kids started wailing, “Get a teacher!” and “Someone stop them!” And so I went to the tool shed, took out a spade, ran over to the unruly boys, and bashed one of them over the head.
Perhaps I am supposed to be horrified but she's technically not wrong. And all the adults around her had to tell her was, "We don't go around hitting people to stop a fight. We can also ignore the fight" But maybe that's the Nairobian in me. Another instance where she made me laugh was a conversation she once had with her mother while at a park
I saw a dead bird in the park. It was small, a pretty blue, and must have been someone’s pet. It lay there with its neck twisted and eyes closed, and the other children were all standing around it crying. One girl started to ask: “What should we—” But before she could finish I snatched it up and ran over to the bench where my mother was chatting with the other mothers. “What’s up, Keiko? Oh! A little bird … where did it come from I wonder?” she said gently, stroking my hair. “The poor thing. Shall we make a grave for it?” “Let’s eat it!” I said.
And I'm sorry, but why couldn't they eat the thing? It was already dead. And if they cooked it really well, there was no risk of salmonella.

Keiko strikes me as the person who needs to be told exactly what to do in "normal" situations or left alone. Aka me but turned up to eleven. I related to Keiko's eccentricities to an alarming degree. The difference is, I don't care to mollify those who question my life choices. Are we paying taxes together? Do I own a share in your oxygen? No? Then mind your business. I remember when an auntie asked me why I am not married yet. I told her I'd hold the wedding on the date of her choice if she was going to pay for everything.

But for Keiko, life isn't that easy. Dismissing those who seem to care about her isn't an option. Keiko wanted to be "cured". At 18, she found a job at the convenience store. The convenience store is considered a stepping stone for people entering the job market, immigrants, housewives etc. At that moment, for the first time ever, I felt I’d become a part in the machine of society. I’ve been reborn, I thought. That day, I actually became a normal cog in society. This makes me sad because I can't tell whether it's conditioning from capitalism (though you could argue that in our hunter gatherer past lives we still had to contribute) or Japanese culture.

The store and its idiosyncrasies and routines became a lifeline, a purpose for Keiko. I still don’t have a clue how to be a normal person outside that manual. It meant everything to her
I think about the transparent glass box that is still stirring with life even in the darkness of night. That pristine aquarium is still operating like clockwork.
If this isn't a subtle take on how work defines us, I don't know what is. (I probably don't. See, I happen to be an imbecile). Keiko won't let you forget the convenience store is her reason for being
The tinkle of the door chime as a customer comes in sounds like church bells to my ears. When I open the door, the brightly lit box awaits me—a dependable, normal world that keeps turning. I have faith in the world inside the light-filled box.
She felt under pressure to be "productive". To be a functioning member of society. People who are considered normal enjoy putting those who aren’t on trial. A woman with a well-paying upwardly mobile job. Or a wife with a few kids on the way. Even the men in her circle chimed in. Usually in Kenya, men don't bother themselves with women's affairs. However, you can see how "out of it" Keiko is when it comes to interacting with the human race. When her sister's baby won't stop crying,
The baby started to cry. My sister hurriedly picked him up and tried to soothe him. What a lot of hassle I thought. I looked at the small knife we’d used to cut the cake still lying there on the table: if it was just a matter of making him quiet, it would be easy enough.


Eventually Keiko gets into an entanglement with former store worker Shiraha where they agree to be each other's shelter from the onslaught of expectations. It doesn't end well. Or maybe it does. Only Keiko could ever tell us. And where the book ends, it's fairly certain that Keiko is a Convenience Store Woman™️ down to her cells. By the author herself, Keiko is a true hero.

According to an interview Murata (which means "friend" in Kikuyu lol) did with the Financial Times, the purpose of the book is to eviscerate three of Japanese society’s most sacred cows: marriage, the workplace and the strained concept of the “normal” life. I would say that's mission accomplished.

EXTRAS

The author's letter to a convenience store.
Profile Image for Tim.
467 reviews582 followers
March 14, 2022
I've had this book sitting on my shelf for some time, but have never been able to bring myself to try it. I picked it up around the same time Earthlings, the author's other novel translated into English came out. A book club I was in was reading Earthlings, so I gave it a shot first… and while the book was interesting it was not a book I enjoyed at all. Thus this one say on my shelf for over a year before I saw a friend's review and said "I really should get around to that."

Now here we are. What did I think?

Well, it's significantly better than Earthlings, and actually makes me like the other book even less, as really Earthlings is in many ways just a darker retread of this one, but without as much of the humor. The ideas here are much the same as the other book, but gotten across much better and with a few sly winks. It's a much shorter, but stronger work.

I enjoy that our narrator is so ingrained in the world of the convenience store that she sees everything from that point of view in her daily life. My favorite touch is that the managers she's met are only referred to by their number. Unlike her co-workers who have names, the manager is just an extension of the store and thus is just referred to as their title.

She is such a part of the store that when others begin asking about her life outside of work she becomes uncomfortable. "Now, however, it felt like he'd downgraded me from store worker to female of the human species." It's less the female part that bothers her, and more being considered a human outside the store.



The store "never changes" a customer says, but our narrator knows this is wrong. She's been there since day one and see all of its changes; from staff to product, the store is its own world that is constantly evolving and the only world she understands and seems to fit in. The book sounds more melancholy than it is, and I'd be lying if I said there weren't some darker aspects (Shiraha is a despicable character and I found myself wishing our narrator would repeat a past event from her childhood involving a shovel with him), but overall the tone of this one is much lighter than Earthlings.

I can't say this is a great book, but it was by far the more entertaining and effective of the two translated to English. A fairly enjoyable read to kill a few hours. 3/5 stars
Profile Image for Brandice.
798 reviews
July 4, 2019
Convenience Store Woman as described by author Jami Attenberg: ”What a weird and wonderful and deeply satisfying book this is.”

For the most part, I felt the same way about it. This is a slim book, with a simple premise: 36-year old Keiko Furukura is a convenience store worker and has been for the last 18 years. She doesn’t have a serious relationship (nor has she ever had one) and she has only a few friends. It appears her life has not progressed over the last several years. She is whole-heartedly committed to her life as a store worker and has no aspirations to achieve more, in any sense. The book is about Keiko’s day-to-day life and how it’s impacted by a new male coworker she encounters at the store.

Convenience Store Woman is equal parts amusing and sad. I felt bad for Keiko and her general social obliviousness, but also found some of her actions and commentary entertaining. This book is a reminder that we don’t all always want the same things and success is subjective. It was a quick, worthwhile little read.
Profile Image for Robin.
474 reviews2,492 followers
September 18, 2020


A look at the game of life. Remember that board game? Ever play it back in the day? Spin the wheel, go to university, get a job, get married, have kids, and cash in at the end. Everyone who plays lives happily ever after.

The rules are pretty simple, but for Miss Furukura, it's a baffling game. She's never understood how to play, how to act. Figuring out what is "normal" never came naturally. She even mimics the cadence of those around her in order to sound human when she talks. At the age of eighteen, she gets a job in a convenience store, the only place she feels at home. Eighteen years later, she is still there, still shouting out greetings, still ringing in purchases, still tending to displays with deep devotion.

At first, working in the convenience store was a good move in the game of her life. But all this time later, she looks more and more conspicuous. A weirdo. A weirdo without a "real" job, without a husband or even boyfriend. No little pink or blue pegs in her car - forget those - she's a virgin. She's a shame to her family. She causes people around her to feel uncomfortable. What to make of this person?

One day, she meets an equally weird character, a guy who can't hack it as a convenience store worker. They come to a mutually beneficial arrangement, but can two weirdos really fool the world into thinking they can play the game? More importantly, can they fool themselves?

This very short novella (or long short story - not sure what to call it) provides much food for thought on the idea of life as a machine, and how we rely on other people to play certain roles for our own comfort. If they don't play along, will the machine keep working? If they don't play along, then why the hell am I?

As I said, it's very interesting, though I think I'd have liked it to go further than it did. Something about this story felt safe to me - maybe because I know how far off the page this author can go (please, if you're brave, read Murata's novel Earthlings - it's a wild ride!). This story stayed ensconced in the firm grip of the convenience store. And how exciting can that possibly get?
January 22, 2021

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CONVENIENCE STORE WOMAN is a really interesting book that analyzes social norms from within the microcosm of a Japanese convenience store. Keiko has never been "normal" and probably has Asperger's. Most of the things that people do confuse her and she's learned to fit in by imitating others, but the strongest anchor in her life is her job as a convenience store clerk, where she has worked without advancement for eighteen years.



She finds her job at a convenience store comforting and has learned and internalized all the cues that make the job go more smoothly, whether it's watching a man pat his pocket to determine that he is going to pay with a card, to when certain items move fastest, to the importance of greeting and bowing with the appropriate level of deferential enthusiasm. But Keiko is no longer a fresh university graduate; she is now a single, childless woman in her thirties and people are far less tolerant of her unusual profession now than they were when she was young.



I liked the beginning of the book the best because I went to Japan three years ago and the convenience stores there really are so amazing, I actually really enjoyed hearing Keiko talk about her work. They aren't like the ones in the United States: they have things like fresh baked goods, sliced brie, and fresh ready-to-eat meals, like onigiri balls and big logs of tamago. Since I often couldn't eat out at the places we went to for lunch, I quickly learned to stock up at the konbini.



The book gets scathing and critical with the introduction of a misogynist who Keiko ends up getting involved with because she sees his hatred and frustration with women, in her weird, hyper-logical way, as being simpatico with her own desires: he's tired of being ignored and wants someone to take care of him. And Keiko thinks that having him in her life will ease the ceaseless questions about the absence of men in hers. It does-- horribly, even though he is jobless and has no prospects, people suddenly become much more tolerant and welcoming of her, and the chilling message seems to be that "typical dysfunctionality" is preferred to "atypical functionality" because what society does not understand, it eschews. It's a sad message but illustrated to great effect in this book.



CONVENIENCE STORE WOMAN is a quick read but not a particularly happy one. I don't think it's something you'd want to pick up if you're sad or already feeling frustrated with the world, but I did enjoy the opportunity it provided to revisit the convenience stores of Japan and I think it did a good job conveying the message it wanted to say without coming across as heavy-handed.



3.5 stars
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