Thursday, December 13, 2018

Convenience Store Woman

Convenience Store Woman / Sayaka Murata ; translated from the Japanese by Ginny Tapley Takemori.
New York: Grove Atlantic, c2018.
163 p.

I read this brief book a while back, having seen it recommended all over the place! It was an unusual and entertaining story -- a huge seller in Japan and it's been a hit in translation as well. 

Keiko is an odd child, she hits others for what she thinks are good reasons, she can't seem to grasp what everyone gets upset about when she does something they don't like. It's all very confusing. 

Fast forward to Keiko's adult life: she finds a job in a convenience store. The store has an employee manual that tells her exactly how to act and what she is to do at all times. She really, really likes this, and is good at her job -- reliable, efficient, and satisfied. (by the way, this Japanese convenience store is not a 7-11 slackers type place: it has fresh food, displays, sales etc. More like a mini grocery and gift store - high expectations but low status for the staff).

Keiko's family and friends can't understand why she is still working at the convenience store 18 years later. Doesn't she have any ambition? Doesn't she want an office job, a husband, a family? Actually, no, not really, but starting to feel as if she's on the outside of expected behaviours, she thinks that taking home another misfit from the store will do the trick: people will think she's paired up and leave her alone. 

The misfit, though, is a piece of work. He wants to stay home all day and have her bring him all the necessities of life. And he comes up with a great scheme to get her to quit the store and start at a higher paying office job, to keep him in comfort. Even his own sister thinks he's a useless waste of flesh, and tells Keiko so. 

But seeing her follow his dictates until, at last, she doesn't, is the heart of the story. When she finally realizes that she can be true to herself and her own desires, she kicks over the traces and finds her own happiness once again, alone and in her favourite spot -- a convenience store. It's not all happiness and roses but there is a sense that Keiko is beginning to understand and value herself. There is some comic content, some darker stuff, and a freshness to the story that makes it well worth seeking out. 

1 comment:

  1. I've heard of this one too- it sounds pretty good. I hope to read it soon.


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