Convenience Store Woman – Sayaka Murata

Convenience Store Woman is a really strange story of Keiko Furukura and her life working at a convenience store.  She’s an odd character and the job suits her because there’s a manual telling her how to behave and interact with customers.

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Keiko has been waiting her whole life for someone to just tell her how to behave with other people, because she has no clue herself. She seems to be devoid of any empathy. As a child, Keiko, has a few violent episodes where she is reacting to something very literally, and she has no idea why everyone is upset with her. Motivated by not wanting to upset her parents, she withdraws and asks her sister for advice on occasions when she wants to appear normal.

Finding the job at the convenience store is life changing for her because of the beloved manual.

“We’ve got quite similar tastes, haven’t we? I like your bag too,” Mrs. Izumi said with a smile. It’s only natural that my tastes would match hers since I’m copying her.

Things go well for Keiko for the next eighteen years, until she is getting so old that people start questioning her life. Why is she not married? Why does she still basically work at Spar? Honestly, these conforming weirdos should just leave her alone. Quite why other people are so concerned is beyond me. Most of the story is Keiko trying to deflect this negative attention from her and keep the appearance of normality.

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 finally understood why my family had tried so hard to fix me.

Overall, I finished Convenience Store Woman and just didn’t really know how I felt about it! I enjoyed reading it, but it left me feeling quite disturbed. As though Keiko’s story is not really finished and something very, very sinister is lurking just around the corner for her… There’s one scene in the book that really hinted at this, and made me think the whole tone of the book was going to change, but it didn’t. Chilling!

Maybe I didn’t feel like I enjoyed it so much because I identified with Keiko in maybe too many ways. I’m quite socially awkward and also don’t like to do things just because society expects me to. I don’t have the no empathy thing though. Phew.

Overall I DID enjoy Convenience Store Woman, but it made me uncomfortable. This means it really evoked an emotional response and that’s generally what I want from a book. It’s just normally happiness or sadness! I haven’t been able to sit and write this review because I just couldn’t make my mind up about it! I finished it a month ago!

A lot of Convenience Store Woman is also really wry, and well observed, and funny. Keiko watching and commenting on other people is often funny and often very dark.

Now, however, it felt like he’d downgraded me from store worker to female of the human species.

Oh Keiko, we all get that. Urghhh.

Have you read Convenience Store Woman? What did you think?

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8 thoughts on “Convenience Store Woman – Sayaka Murata

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