CONVENIENCE STORE WOMAN
A quirky short gem of a read about not conforming - written with honesty, humour and sensitivity
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BY SAYAKA MURATA
Convenience Store Woman is a gem of a read and a perfect wild card option. Keiko Furukura knows she doesn’t conform and sees the world differently to everyone else. Having started to work part time in a newly opened Japanese Convenience Store, 18 years later she is still doing the same job. Her family despair at her and her fellow employees who depend on her efficiency are saddened by her loyalty. Keiko however thrives on running the promotions, checking the stock, recognising her customer’s behaviour and calling out the familiar welcome greeting “Irasshaimase!” We quickly learn that working in the Store is where Keiko feels most secure.
When you read this short story, you know Keiko doesn’t fit in but in so many ways, her reasoning is more spot on than the rest of us. In her world everything is functional and has a purpose, eating and sleeping are a means of keeping her body fit, so she can work. She doesn’t drink tea as she can’t comprehend the point of flavouring water and her food choices are fixed and bland. The arrival at work of Shiraha, a lazy no-hoper, takes her out of her comfort zone with devastating consequences.
The book so often makes you think “ah yes, why do we do that” – it is a somewhat melancholy and at times discomfiting read but as you are drawn into Keiko’s determined and resolute world you begin to realise that it is inside this safe haven that she is able to function in life as a “normal” person. The moment this is taken away her life spirals out of control to one of deep depression.
The Den loved the quirkiness of this novel. Like Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine and Dan in The Rosie Project, Sayaka Murata has taken a misfit with odd behavioural patterns and once again laid bare the hypocrisies of society if you don’t conform. It is a funny, moving and somewhat eccentric story - perfect for a lazy afternoon’s read. With just over 160 pages, it makes a great extra read for your book club OR can even be a wild card choice for when you fancy a light but thought provoking quick read - with not too much homework!
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