REVIEW – Convenience Store Woman

“She’s far happier thinking her sister is normal, even if she has a lot of problems than she is having an abnormal sister for whom everything is fine.”

Why Did I Read This Book?

When I picked up this book, I was one book away from completing my Goodreads Reading Challenge to read 100 books in 2020. With only three days left to complete it, I opted for a short piece of fiction to tick off the 100th book. I have been waiting to read Convenience Store Woman since the summer and having read some other short Asian fiction this year, I wanted to see what all the hype was about with this one.

What Did I Think?

What did I think? Tricky question…I think I enjoyed it? It is definitely one of the most confusing books I’ve ever read but I seemed to like that nonetheless. 

If you haven’t heard of this one, Convenience Store Woman is the heartwarming and surprising story of thirty-six-year-old Tokyo resident Keiko Furukura. Keiko has never fit in, neither in her family, nor in school, but when at the age of eighteen she begins working at the Hiiromachi branch of “Smile Mart,” she finds peace and purpose in her life. 

Keiko only learns about social interaction through working at the Smile Mart, copying people’s mannerisms, speech and reactions in order to act like a ‘normal’ person. When we meet her, she has worked at the convenience store for over 18 years and is constantly questioned and pressured about why she has stayed there for so long or why she hasn’t found a partner and got married yet. 

Although nothing much happens throughout the course of the book, the social commentary made by the author, Sayaka Murata, is incredible and consistently questions normality and social norms. The need to conform is also highlighted throughout her book, with constant reference to the coworkers and her ‘friends’ being exactly the same as each other; dressing, talking, doing the same as one another. Keiko, despite her unusual and robotic behaviour, is arguably the only character in the book who isn’t one dimensional. 

I did enjoy the book but towards the end, I think the story was lost a little and I had to frequently question whether I was enjoying the book or not. I suppose that was intentional by the author?! I’m definitely glad it was the book to finish a weird and wonderful year.

“You eliminate the parts of your life that others find strange–maybe that’s what everyone means when they say they want to ‘cure” me.”

Convenience Store Woman

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Publisher: Portobello Books
Published: 2018
No. Pages: 163
Genre: Short Fiction, Asian, Contemporary
Trigger Warnings: Poverty, social awkwardness, abusive relationships
Links: Goodreads, Amazon, Blackwells

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