Title: Convenience Store Woman
Author: Sayaka Murata
Translator: Ginny Tapley Takemori
Genre: Adult, Contemporary, Cultural, Japan
Publisher: Grove Press
Published: June 12, 2018
A physical copy of this book was kindly provided by Publishers Group Canada, in exchange for an honest review.
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 Amelie.
– My Review –
This book must be one of the most unique books that I read so far this year, and perhaps that I have read ever! I really like how it was narrated, and that Convenience Store Woman started off with a very clear description of what a convenience store in Japan is like. Since I have travelled to Japan twice now, I could imagine the convenience store that the main character, Keiko, works in quite easily. But, the description was done so well, that I am sure that even those who have never set foot on Japanese soil well be able to imagine what convenience stores there are like! While the convenience store in this book plays such a vital role that it could almost be considered a character itself, the actual main character was very interesting for me to read about.
I don’t think that I have ever come across a character like her before, in fact! I was never quite sure what to think of her, and would definitely consider her to be an unreliable narrator, but despite this, she still made me smile and laugh as I made my way through Convenience Store Woman! Keiko, as well as the other characters in this book, were quite easy to imagine as they went about their lives, and they all felt very dynamic and real. I would like to say more about this book, but fear that I might give too much away. Overall, I really enjoyed this book, and found that it was a quick read even for a slow, and easily-distracted, reader like myself! I just had to know what was going to happen, and how it was all going to end!
– About the Author –
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 (Conbini 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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THANK YOU FOR READING MY BOOK REVIEW! HAVE YOU READ THIS BOOK? WHAT DID YOU THINK? AND IF YOU HAVEN’T READ IT YET, DO YOU WANT TO, OR NOT? HOW COME? LET ME KNOW IN THE COMMENTS BELOW!