Issa Book Review: Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata, Ginny Tapley Takemori (Translator)

by: Tania Lasenburg

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 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? – Goodreads

This book is considered one of the most unexpected good reads of 2018. As I have a new found love for Japanese literature, I picked up this read and it was good but only if you understand what the author is trying to say. Granted I can only make an assumption of what the author wants to convey but as a reader, I can give it a shot.

Keiko was a blunt child when growing up. It wasn’t as if she didn’t understand social interactions and why you don’t use a bat to break up a fight but it doesn’t appear that she wasn’t taught. The way that I read it was that it was assumed that she would know when to feel certain things at a specific time. It felt like growing up, her whole life was an assumption and that she would fall into line with everyone else.

Keiko represents any person or anything that doesn’t conform to the expectations of the “real world”. This could range from being in a relationship, having a career or becoming a mother. Keiko had no desire to be in a relationship or to be married. She prefers her life to be predictable and ordered in the simplest way possible. And most importantly she likes her job as a convenience store worker.

But beyond the basic story, the author is trying to tell, you read about the pressures. There are three types of pressures: making your family proud, honoring your family by not being that child who embarrasses them and conforming to what society wants you to be as a woman.

Overall, the book moves, I wouldn’t slow; maybe a medium pace. What I mean by that is there are things happening because you are reading the turning point of Keiko life but just because its the turning point doesn’t mean Keiko herself changes. She is simply moving with the tides and trying to keep her “normal” life “normal”.

I enjoyed this book. It was a decent and surprising read. It was a lot deeper than I thought it would be at first glance.

A solid 3 stars, I would recommend.