Friday, June 25, 2021

Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata

Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata

Convenience Store Woman (2016) is a novel by the Japanese author Sayaka Murata. I read the English version of the story, which was translated by Ginny Tapley Takemori. It’s the strange tale of Keiko Furukura, a 36-year-old woman who lives in Tokyo. Keiko works at a convenience store called Smile Mart. She started working at the store at age 18 and has worked there for half her life.

Growing up, Keiko has trouble understanding how to fit in, and her abnormal behavior shocks her family. As a child, when her classmates are crying over a dead bird found on their playground, Keiko doesn’t see any reason to mourn its death. She sees the dead bird as food and wants to cook it. When a fight takes place among her classmates, and the children want the fight to stop, Keiko steps in and hits one of the children with a shovel to stop the fight. Keiko has dark ideas that differ from those around her. Later on, as an adult, Keiko thinks of killing a baby to make it stop crying. These moments left me waiting for a dark twist as I read the story.

Keiko finds purpose in life when she is hired at Smile Mart, a 24-hour convenience store. The store has a calming order and routine, and Keiko follows the store’s manual to be a dedicated employee. She has little identity outside of the store. Keiko attempts to fit with people through careful observation and by mimicking others. She notices when she makes mistakes by watching the reactions of those around her, and she corrects her behavior to appear normal. Keiko is content with her life, but after 18 years working at the convenience store, her friends and family question her about her lack of ambition and encourage her to get a boyfriend and to get married and have children.

The novel’s themes reflect on how people must conform to societal pressures and norms. What happens when a person can’t fit in? In this story, Keiko finds her own unique ways to cope with her alienation from society by discovering peace and purpose in her convenience store.

However, Keiko’s careful world order falls apart when she meets a man named Shiraha at the store. He’s the opposite of Keiko. He’s a horrible employee, who is fired for his poor work ethic and for harassing customers. Beyond that, Shiraha is a misogynist and a cruel human being. Strangely, Keiko ends up taking Shiraha in and letting him live with her to meet society’s expectations. She calls him her boyfriend, and he lives off her. Keiko eventually leaves her job at the convenience store, but without the order of Smile Mart, how will Keiko find her way in life?

Purchase and read books by Sayaka Murata:

Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata Earthlings by Sayaka Murata


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