Convenience Store Woman – Sayaka Murata

London, January 2019

Overview

A quirky ode to the work we do and why we do it.

Keiko is 36, unmarried and works in lives for her role in a convenience store. When a disgruntled male employee returns to the store, he seems to present the solution to Keiko’s social struggle to be Normal.

Thoughts

This was the type of novel I haven’t come across in a while and I really enjoyed it.

Keiko is not like everyone else, a fact underlined through a number of childhood incidents that she recalls with confusion at why it was that she shouldn’t hit children who start fights. The fact is further underlined by Keiko’s genuine embrace of the convenience store, her job demanding not only her total sacrifice through the day but in the evenings too, when she finishes work and refuels with the right type and portions of food to keep her healthy for her work the next day.

I empathised with her efforts to adopt the right tone in social circles and recognise it as something I’ve done over the years. I’ve read a lot of reviews that deduced Keiko must have a social disability of some kind but much of what I read was an unusual woman who would like to feel socially acceptable enough to be left alone from complaints about her unconventional choices.

I liked the idea that social standards might exist but can’t just be imposed on everyone. It’s nice to read a character who defies what’s considered the status quo, without meaning to.

When the grumpy ex-colleague arrived, I though he would change and that he and Keiko would develop a quirky romance against the backdrop of Keiko’s quirky world, so I was glad when she rejected both him and his plans for her social acceptability to return to what fulfilled her, despite how undynamic her chosen lifestyle is.

Rating

A short, pleasant read that acts as a quick guide to Just Doing It.

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