Convenience Store Woman
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 that 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? Sayaka Murata brilliantly captures the atmosphere of the familiar convenience store that is so much part of life in Japan. With some laugh-out-loud moments prompted by the disconnect between Keiko’s thoughts and those of the people around her, she provides a sharp look at Japanese society and the pressure to conform, as well as penetrating insights into the female mind. Convenience Store Woman is a fresh, charming portrait of an unforgettable heroine that recalls Banana Yoshimoto, Han Kang, and Amélie.

Convenience Store Woman Details

TitleConvenience Store Woman
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseJun 12th, 2018
PublisherGrove Press
Rating
GenreFiction, Cultural, Japan, Contemporary, Asian Literature, Japanese Literature

Convenience Store Woman Review

  • Taryn
    January 1, 1970
    Keiko Furukura lives an atypical life. At thirty-six-years-old, she's a virgin and completely disinterested in romantic relationships. She has worked part-time at a Japanese convenience store for eighteen years. Her family was thrilled when she was first employed because they saw it as a sign of her growth as a person. Keiko has always been considered peculiar, but the job helped her finally become an "ordinary person." The convenience store is "a dependable, normal world" where she's valued as Keiko Furukura lives an atypical life. At thirty-six-years-old, she's a virgin and completely disinterested in romantic relationships. She has worked part-time at a Japanese convenience store for eighteen years. Her family was thrilled when she was first employed because they saw it as a sign of her growth as a person. Keiko has always been considered peculiar, but the job helped her finally become an "ordinary person." The convenience store is "a dependable, normal world" where she's valued as an equal amongst her coworkers and receives no scrutiny about her personal life. Best of all, there's a written manual that tells her exactly how she needs to behave! She absorbs the personalities of her coworkers and uses them to construct her own "normal person" identity: "Infecting each other like this is how we maintain ourselves as human." Everyone assumed that the convenience store was just the first step in Keiko's journey to bigger and better things, but she's still in the same spot almost two decades later. The biggest sign of her evolution has become additional evidence of her deficiencies. I absorb the world around me, and that’s changing all the time. Just as all the water that was in my body last time we met has now been replaced with new water, the things that make up me have changed too. Keiko's atypical lifestyle causes discomfort for everyone around her. She's such an anomaly! Her family and friends are always trying to fix her, but she feels perfectly fine the way she is. The only thing that causes her discomfort is everyone else's judgment! She has a stockpile of vague prepared answers to defuse awkward situations, but those answers aren't working anymore as she ages. Keiko values her relationships and doesn't want to be cut off from her social groups, so she decides that it might be easier to just meet their demands. She doesn't even have to lie! She announces a life change and everyone fills in the blanks based on the standard story. Sadly, she realizes she never really belonged at all, even with the people she felt the most comfortable. As she takes a single step into normalcy, even her safe places become places of scrutiny.  Succumbing to one societal demand just leads to more expectations. Keiko notices that having a troubled normal life is more acceptable than having a content abnormal life. “Look, anyone who doesn’t fit in with the village loses any right to privacy. They’ll trample all over you as they please. You either get married and have kids or go hunting and earn money, and anyone who doesn’t contribute to the village in one of these forms is a heretic. And the villagers will come poking their noses into your life as much as they want.” At 176 pages, this darkly quirky novel is a quick read. Japanese convenience stores sound amazing! I never thought I'd want to visit another country and immediately run to a convenience store! The language is plain and some of the concepts were mentioned repetitively, but I adored Keiko. She has a cold, logical attitude, but I felt so warm towards her (despite some of her darker inclinations)! I really liked the relationship between Keiko and her sister and how it evolved throughout the story. This little novel also tapped into some deep rage! Keiko encounters frequent misogyny throughout the story. Keiko's experiences triggered memories of rude comments I received when I was a romantic late bloomer, during a brief stint at Taco Bell, and while I was pursuing an art degree. Even when I got a great design job right out of college, one of my professors responded, "Oh well! We all have to start somewhere!" Those experiences made me feel extra empathetic towards Keiko. The awkward scenes where Keiko is singled out made me cringe! The normal world has no room for exceptions and always quietly eliminates foreign objects. Anyone who is lacking is disposed of. So that’s why I need to be cured. Unless I’m cured, normal people will expurgate me.  Finally I understood why my family had tried so hard to fix me. The convenience store mirrors life; the parts change, but the whole stays the same. Perhaps we're still trapped in old-fashioned social paradigms, even though we tend to see ourselves as more evolved than people from past eras. An innate "manual" is passed on to everyone for centuries: get married, have babies, make more money. Anyone who doesn't meet those standards must be persuaded to take the correct path or be ostracised. Of course, even if you meet those standards, there's always something else to obtain. When it comes to making everyone happy, the goalposts are constantly moving! Keiko also notices there's always someone lower in the hierarchy. People who feel attacked find their own people to lash out at. Everyone, even her equals, is vocal about what's wrong with Keiko and what she needs to do to succeed. Will Keiko be able to drown out all the voices and accept her true calling or will she conform to societal demands? Convenience Store Woman is a strange little book with an interesting protagonist! If you like this book, I think you might also like Nineveh by Henrietta Rose-Innes._______________I received this book for free from Netgalley and Grove Atlantic/Grove Press. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review. It will be available June 12, 2018.
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  • Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader & Traveling Sister
    January 1, 1970
    4 quirky stars to Convenience Store Woman! ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ Keiko was always a little different in her parents’ eyes. When she went to college, she got a job at a local convenience store. She tried her best to fit in by copying the other employees there, from their clothing to their mannerisms. Life passes by, and many years later, Keiko is still working at the convenience store. No one around Keiko is comfortable with her choice to stay there, but she is content...until she tries her best to change.The 4 quirky stars to Convenience Store Woman! ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ Keiko was always a little different in her parents’ eyes. When she went to college, she got a job at a local convenience store. She tried her best to fit in by copying the other employees there, from their clothing to their mannerisms. Life passes by, and many years later, Keiko is still working at the convenience store. No one around Keiko is comfortable with her choice to stay there, but she is content...until she tries her best to change.The messages here about conforming are profound. Poor Keiko goes down the rabbit hole of trying to meet everyone else’s expectations. This is a short book, an easy read, and there’s a character to try to understand who will probably work her way right into your heart! Thank you to my Goodreads friend, Taryn, for the recommendation to read Keiko’s story! Many thanks to Grove Atlantic, the publisher of the most unique and quirky, well-written books, Sayaka Murata, and Netgalley for the copy. Convenience Store Woman will be published on June 12, 2018.
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  • Elyse
    January 1, 1970
    The moment I finished reading this story - I immediately wanted to know everything about the author- Sayaka Murata. WHO IS SHE? I was screaming inside about how WONDERFUL she must be. This book is a GEM!!!!! Awe-inspiring writing — irresistible—and weirdly outlandish!My gosh...I had the best laugh when I discovered that ‘our author’ —-one of Japan’s most exciting contemporary writers—[I AGREE,I AGREE] —‘really’ works as a part time employee in a convenience store. Talk about material for inspira The moment I finished reading this story - I immediately wanted to know everything about the author- Sayaka Murata. WHO IS SHE? I was screaming inside about how WONDERFUL she must be. This book is a GEM!!!!! Awe-inspiring writing — irresistible—and weirdly outlandish!My gosh...I had the best laugh when I discovered that ‘our author’ —-one of Japan’s most exciting contemporary writers—[I AGREE,I AGREE] —‘really’ works as a part time employee in a convenience store. Talk about material for inspiration— Sayaka has first hand experience. Cracks me up! I love it! I love Japanese Literature anyway ....and Sayaka’s storytelling is so marvelous- with humor - complexity of conformity- that I just can’t stop smiling about this slim ADORABLE - but ALSO VERY AFFECTING....( with sad undercurrents)...novel. Who WOULDN’T enjoy reading this? I can’t imagine anyone not being consumed by it. What stands out to me about our main character -Keiko (self- acclaimed different )- who has worked in the convenient store for 18 years, watching other university students come and go....and managers come and go....is how deliciously self aware Keiko is. This girl is ‘not’ stupid. I felt that even when Keiko copied the styles of fashion - and language -jargon of others - demonstrating that she ‘could’ blend in—that mostly she was at peace with herself exactly the way she was. There are many ways to look at this story — the illusions about what society calls normal - and our human agreements about what’s considered a successful life or not...etc. I adore Keiko. I hope the author writes more books about her. I’d love to continue to follow Keiko again. I miss her already. Honestly- I can imagine a dozen stories centered around Keiko! The other thing that makes this book so special is ‘THE FEELING/THE AURA’ we ‘experience’. A GEM I tell ya, a precious gem! ......leaving us with much to think about!*HIGHLY RECOMMEND*...it’s a quick treasure of a read! Thank You Grove Atlantic, Netgalley, and Sayaka Murata ( I’m a new fan!!!)
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  • Holly B
    January 1, 1970
    3.5 An odd little book with quite eccentric characters Keiko is the quirky protagonist and she decides that working in a convenience store is both satisfying and provides her with a sense of belonging. She feels very "connected" to the store and its routines and mundane tasks.  She doesn't mind this, she thrives and enjoys her job and is a hard worker.Her family constantly worries that she is "not normal."  Society has certain "expectations" and she has chosen not to comply.  There is a deep 3.5 An odd little book with quite eccentric characters Keiko is the quirky protagonist and she decides that working in a convenience store is both satisfying and provides her with a sense of belonging. She feels very "connected" to the store and its routines and mundane tasks.  She doesn't mind this, she thrives and enjoys her job and is a hard worker.Her family constantly worries that she is "not normal."  Society has certain "expectations" and she has chosen not to comply.  There is a deeper message about life and the assumptions that all successful people are expected to follow, but Keiko isn't listening!This is a quiet story about acceptance and judgement. I enjoyed spending time with Keiko!Publication date is June 22,2018. Thanks to NG/Grove Press for the ARC.  
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  • Debbie
    January 1, 1970
    3.5, rounded up (but with MUCH internal turmoil)I don’t know about you, but I never think about convenience stores. (Except, wait, right now I’m thinking about the fact that 7-11s don’t have bathrooms. How is that convenient I want to know.) Convenience stores are all Cheetos and lottery tickets, in and out in a matter of minutes. Hit the road, jack, head on out to your next stop. Well, when you read this book, the convenience store is front and center. The customers hit the road lickety-split, 3.5, rounded up (but with MUCH internal turmoil)I don’t know about you, but I never think about convenience stores. (Except, wait, right now I’m thinking about the fact that 7-11s don’t have bathrooms. How is that convenient I want to know.) Convenience stores are all Cheetos and lottery tickets, in and out in a matter of minutes. Hit the road, jack, head on out to your next stop. Well, when you read this book, the convenience store is front and center. The customers hit the road lickety-split, like they’re supposed to, but one of the workers, Keiko, is almost a shut-in. Basically she’s married to the store, and the relationship has been going on for 18 years. Or you can think of the convenience store as her addiction, her God. This store, oh this store is her everything. She follows the rules and is obsessed with stocking shelves and creating signs to promote the special of the day. When she’s not in the store, she is thinking about it. She carries the store’s sounds around in her head—all the clicks and clacks that most of us never tune into. To her these sounds are like lullabies. And she feels like she is part of the store:“When I think that my body is entirely made up of food from this store, I feel like I’m as much a part of the store as the magazine racks or the coffee machine.”To say the least, Keiko is a weird duck. We get to see a little of her life as a kid, and it confirms that she has been a weirdo forever. It’s a buzz phrase these days, but I’m guessing Keiko is “on the spectrum.” Keiko is robotic and passive, which made it hard for me to feel much for her. She did entertain me—many of the things she does and thinks are pretty funny. And she fascinated me—I definitely wanted to see what she would do next. In terms of a character study, the book gets an A-plus. Well, I’ll change that to a B, because there are two times when Keiko shows a dark side. One is an action and one is a thought, very brief. I just didn’t buy it. For a few minutes, I wondered whether the book was going to turn into a thriller. I don’t get why the writer went there. We know Keiko is weird. It’s not necessary to throw in an odd trait that doesn’t fit with her personality. This book is all about conformity. Keiko wants to conform so much that she imitates people’s mannerisms and speech patterns, which becomes comical. Family and friends want her to act normal, and they won’t drop it. They want her to be married and they want her to have a better job. The pressure is on. The story gets infinitely more interesting when a guy comes into her life. Their relationship is totally bizarro. Keiko and the guy have conversations about conformity, mostly meaning the guy spews his ideas. He’s a little pedantic and the ideas seem sophomoric at times. Also, the ideas are repeated too much. In those cases, the writing seems amateurish.I loved the originality of the plot and the character and liked that it was told in first-person. It was a kick learning so much about Japanese convenience stores (I wonder if they have restrooms?!), and I loved getting the picture of the work scene there. Of course, I just loved getting a peek at Japanese culture in general. As often happens when I read a book from a different land, I wish I could beam myself up—and in this case, land in Tokyo. I would definitely head for a convenience store. Would I be greeted when I entered, like in Keiko’s store?This is a fast, entertaining read by a popular Japanese writer. (A cool fact: The writer worked in a convenience store when she wrote this book!) The language is simplistic, which I sometimes liked but sometimes made me crave sophistication. I was going to say this book is lightweight, but actually it’s not because it drills home how society’s expectations affect your life and shows how people treat those who don’t conform.I’m giving this book 3.5 stars. I’ve been hopping madly back and forth, trying to decide whether to round up or down. Even while writing this review, I’ve changed my mind twice!! For now I’ve settled on rounding up. The book is definitely way more than a meh, and because it’s so original, I don’t think I’ll forget about it. Meanwhile, I can’t believe I’m spending so much time worrying about (and moaning about) a stupid number! I liked the book—just get over it, Debbie!I’m so sorry I didn’t show the contents of the Joy Jar and Complaint Board in easy-to-read lists, like I usually do. It might have made my rating problem easier! But I’d say the Joy Jar ekes out a win. Although the book isn’t a wow, I would recommend it, especially to those who enjoyed Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine. Thanks to NetGalley for the advance copy.
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  • Vanessa
    January 1, 1970
    Convenience store woman is a simple little story about Keiko Furukura a totally quirky hopelessly inept character but in a totally charming and sweet way. She’s a character that defies societies norms by bucking the traditional role designated for women that require them to have a “proper” or “normal” job, a husband and children by a certain age. I felt a deep sadness for Keiko always being subjected to judgement and how she was always making excuses for her life choices. I felt a real tug on my Convenience store woman is a simple little story about Keiko Furukura a totally quirky hopelessly inept character but in a totally charming and sweet way. She’s a character that defies societies norms by bucking the traditional role designated for women that require them to have a “proper” or “normal” job, a husband and children by a certain age. I felt a deep sadness for Keiko always being subjected to judgement and how she was always making excuses for her life choices. I felt a real tug on my heartstrings. I ended up totally in love with this character. So many times I wanted to wrap Keiko up in cotton wool and protect her from those relentless judgemental eyes. Reading this made me angry, really angry! The fact this was set in Japan also made me love this book just that little bit more as I adore the Japanese culture, and the few books I’ve read from there have always been a delight. What first appears to be a simple story of a simple woman living her simple life really becomes an examination of society’s pressures and the damage it can cause people who don’t fit in to that mould. This book may be small in size but it has a big heart.Thanks to Netgalley and Grove Atlantic for my review copy. Pub date 22 June 2018.
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  • Ms. Smartarse
    January 1, 1970
    Published in English as Convenice Store WomanAnyone who's ever shopped for groceries outside of an hermetically closed space, must have a thing or two to rant about employees. You're in a hurry, having once again stepped out too late, but still need to nip in to buy that little something before getting to work. Yet the shop assistant is taking his/her sweet time chatting about that totally hilarious (you had to be there!) story. Not Keiko Furukura! After 18 years, she's so well attuned to the so Published in English as Convenice Store WomanAnyone who's ever shopped for groceries outside of an hermetically closed space, must have a thing or two to rant about employees. You're in a hurry, having once again stepped out too late, but still need to nip in to buy that little something before getting to work. Yet the shop assistant is taking his/her sweet time chatting about that totally hilarious (you had to be there!) story. Not Keiko Furukura! After 18 years, she's so well attuned to the sounds of the convenience store, that she can react even to the slightest change in her environment. A soft jiggle of small change, means a quick transaction for something like a pack of cigarettes. A nearby competitor going out of business can mean sudden increase in customers, so stocking up on the best selling merchandise is advisable.Our heroine has always struggled to fit into society, never quite attaining the state of "normalcy" dictated by society. Life as a convenience store (aka konbini) employee however, is just perfect for her. With a clear set of rules, our heroine has a full-proof template applicable in any situation. If only the rest of the world would let her be...Aw man, did I get mad at society during the course of this story, given the amount of dislike I felt toward Keiko's 'entourage'. I mean, she is brilliant at her job, just plain perfectly in tune with the kombini's every need, and yet her coworkers (view spoiler)[find her ridiculous because of her personal life (hide spoiler)]. *screams*I got truly involved in the whole action, and started perceiving every slight as if people had been criticizing me. I was totally in tune with Keiko's brand of weirdness earnestly trying to find extenuating circumstances to each and every one of her oddities.Pictured above: Musette preparing to dive into parallel readingI had initially requested the German ARC from Netgalley, but after two weeks of radio silence I figured I wouldn't be getting it, so I jumped at the opportunity to buy the recently published Romanian version... only to get my request approved the very same day. Long story short: I felt pressured to read both versions, so I did. In parallel. It was not one of my brightest ideas... but doable, thanks to the book's short length.Impatience, thy name is indeed: Smartarse.Score: 4.9/5 starsI prefer the German version to the Romanian one, as I feel that the rigid atmosphere of the Japanese society came to life much better, along with Keiko's overly detached view of the world. Alternately, my German's not good enough to grasp all the language subtleties, so any blanks in comprehension were filled in with wishful thinking. Either way, both versions felt well translated.---------------German ARC provided by NetGalleyDE and Aufbau Verlag, in exchange for an honest and fair review.
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  • Esil
    January 1, 1970
    3.5 starsConvenience Store Woman was an odd book. Not a bad book, but definitely odd. Set in Tokyo and translated from Japanese, it features a women in her mid 30s who has been working in a convenience store for her whole adult life. Through her eyes, we understand that she is not meeting social expectations by not being married and by not having a higher status job. But it is also evident that her sense of who she is and who she wants to be does not beat to the drum of social expectations. Thin 3.5 starsConvenience Store Woman was an odd book. Not a bad book, but definitely odd. Set in Tokyo and translated from Japanese, it features a women in her mid 30s who has been working in a convenience store for her whole adult life. Through her eyes, we understand that she is not meeting social expectations by not being married and by not having a higher status job. But it is also evident that her sense of who she is and who she wants to be does not beat to the drum of social expectations. Things are just fine for her working in the convenience store until she decides to try to conform to social norms… This book is very short, clever in the way it’s told, somewhat humorous and mildly depressing. Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for granting me access to an advance copy.
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  • Mackey St
    January 1, 1970
    If you love witty conversation, wry humor and quirky characters then Convenience Store Woman is the book for you! Originally written in Japanese, Convenience Store Woman on the surface is a story about Keiko Furukura, a woman whose own parents labeled "a strange child." Slow to develop, Keiko's parents were worried about her ability to "fit in" and be a "normal" adult. They wish for Keiko to have a "real job" and a boyfriend. However, Keiko loves her job at the convenience store and her only wor If you love witty conversation, wry humor and quirky characters then Convenience Store Woman is the book for you! Originally written in Japanese, Convenience Store Woman on the surface is a story about Keiko Furukura, a woman whose own parents labeled "a strange child." Slow to develop, Keiko's parents were worried about her ability to "fit in" and be a "normal" adult. They wish for Keiko to have a "real job" and a boyfriend. However, Keiko loves her job at the convenience store and her only worry is the pressure to live up to her parents' expectations.As the characters come and go through the store, we soon realize that perhaps Keiko is the one who comes closest to "normal."Convenience Store Woman is an endearing story, a character study of a myriad of personalities and a tale of acceptance that will warm your heart and leave you wanting more. It also is a wonderful, subtle opportunity to catch a glimpse of the Japanese culture.This is a beautiful, very short piece of fiction by Sayaka Murata, who still works part time at a convenience store.My thanks to #Netgalley, the author, Granta Publications and Portobello Books for the opportunity to read this intriguing book.
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  • *TUDOR^QUEEN*
    January 1, 1970
    Thank you to the publisher Grove Atlantic Press who provided an advance reader copy via NetGalley.I must admit I would have never targeted this book to read had someone on Goodreads not recommended it. It kind of flies under the radar by its unassuming cover, but is actually quite thought-provoking.This is a story about a young Japanese woman named Keiko who has been working part-time at a 24-hour convenience store since the age of 18. She is now 36. Her parents, friends, and society itself has Thank you to the publisher Grove Atlantic Press who provided an advance reader copy via NetGalley.I must admit I would have never targeted this book to read had someone on Goodreads not recommended it. It kind of flies under the radar by its unassuming cover, but is actually quite thought-provoking.This is a story about a young Japanese woman named Keiko who has been working part-time at a 24-hour convenience store since the age of 18. She is now 36. Her parents, friends, and society itself has regarded Keiko as "not normal" due to the fact that she is still a virgin, unmarried and never dated, and for working part-time hours at this convenience store rather than transitioning to a more suitable/ better job. In fact, whenever anyone questions her as to why she's still working at this convenience store job, she uses a helpful retort that her sister came up with: "It's just because I'm not very strong, so I'm better off in a casual job." The family suspects something is wrong with Keiko for some other reasons as well. As a young child in school, Keiko witnessed some unruly children fighting at recess and the teacher called out, "Somebody stop them!" Acting quickly, Keiko retrieved a spade from a nearby shed and bashed one of the surly boys over the head with it. It seems as though Keiko sees things in black and white terms, and when she heard the teacher cry out for help, Keiko acted accordingly. Of course, a parent/teacher meeting was called to address this infraction and seeing her Mom's serious demeanor, Keiko realized she must have done something wrong. However, she still couldn't understand why. Keiko soon realized that the less she said, the better. Another example of Keiko's odd thought pattern was how she related to her sister's baby. Upon visiting the sister one day, she looked upon the baby and thought of it as being sort of an animal. She also thought about her other little nephew, and how it really didn't matter which baby she visited...they were kind of the same animal. Then when the baby cried and her sister made an effort to console her, she thought about what a big hassle it must be to do that. Her eyes then stole over to the little knife on the table that had just been used to serve cake, and thought how easy it would be to use it to shut the baby up. Of course, Keiko knew to keep thoughts such as these to herself.Keiko finds her best self in the tightly controlled environment of the convenience store. It has a manual covering everything the employees must do, and she follows it to the letter involving dress, greeting customers and many other protocols. She follows these to the letter and receives good feedback for doing so. In addition, she draws upon the personalities of those she works with to form her own personality. In this way, she will garner more acceptance in the world. For instance, when she admires another female worker's way of talking and dressing, she copies the speech pattern and purchases clothing from the same fashion stores. Keiko had her own very small apartment, although it had roaches and was old. She would take dented cans of food home from the convenience store, but would be sure to eat other healthy foods like vegetables and rice, plus get enough sleep. She knew she had to follow these rules in order to stay healthy and serve the well-being of the convenience store.Needless to say, this was a very interesting character study. It was told in simple language, translated beautifully from its original Japanese. It was a quick and satisfying read which I would highly recommend.
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  • Jenny (Reading Envy)
    January 1, 1970
    I have seen this described as the Japanese Eleanor Oliphant, because Keiko, the central character, doesn't know how to act in "normal" situations, and hasn't been able to, even as a child. As an adult she finds the perfect job, because it comes with a manual that spells out how to act and dress in every situation. A quick read with an interesting character.I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. It comes out 12 June, 2018.
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  • j e w e l s [Books Bejeweled]
    January 1, 1970
    FIVE STARSWhat a strange and quirky little book this is! This is a kind of Japanese version of Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine. I love to read contemporary books set in different cultures and this is one, set in Tokyo, is ideal! Can I just say, American convenience stores have a long way to go to live up to Japanese stores in terms of cleanliness, well-trained and friendly staff, etc etc!!Keiko Furukura is hopelessly out-of-step with societal expectations of women. In a culture that values c FIVE STARSWhat a strange and quirky little book this is! This is a kind of Japanese version of Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine. I love to read contemporary books set in different cultures and this is one, set in Tokyo, is ideal! Can I just say, American convenience stores have a long way to go to live up to Japanese stores in terms of cleanliness, well-trained and friendly staff, etc etc!!Keiko Furukura is hopelessly out-of-step with societal expectations of women. In a culture that values conformist behavior, she struggles until she finds her first job working in the convenience store. After many years of working part time at the store and living alone, she experiments with fitting in to please her family. It doesn't exactly work out, but, she eventually figures out her own way to happiness. I don't want to say more than that since the book is so short! It is really a charming, sweet story of Keiko's pursuit for acceptance. Sayaka Murata is a wonderful writer and wrote this story while she herself was working in a convenience store (and still does!). While I wish the book was longer, it is actually perfect the way it is. Scheduled for US publication in June 2018. Many thanks to NetGalley for allowing me to read and review this darling book!
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  • Claudia
    January 1, 1970
    I don’t know what’s the exact meaning in Japanese, but the "convenience” word used here captured the essence of the book perfectly - such a versatile word with so many meanings.We have an awkward 36 years old woman, who is working at this convenience store for the past 18 years. She never had a boyfriend, nor other job than this. As a child, she was different than the rest, to the point her parents took her to a psychologist. She used to think out of the box, being pragmatic and with a practical I don’t know what’s the exact meaning in Japanese, but the "convenience” word used here captured the essence of the book perfectly - such a versatile word with so many meanings.We have an awkward 36 years old woman, who is working at this convenience store for the past 18 years. She never had a boyfriend, nor other job than this. As a child, she was different than the rest, to the point her parents took her to a psychologist. She used to think out of the box, being pragmatic and with a practical solution for everything, even if most of the times, the solutions were unorthodox, to say the least (these were also the funniest moments of the story for me).But because everybody thought she was different than the rest, she tried all her life to keep appearances and finding this job suited her perfectly at the time, along with different excuses used when people start asking questions about her linear life. When questions became too many, she finds another solution to fit in: a convenience relationship.For such a small book, it has so many layers: it’s about today’s judgmental society, about our working selves - who are taking their tolls on our personal life and free time - and ultimately, about the compromises we make to fit society and have some peace of mind.Despite the fact that I didn’t approve some of the choices she made, I resonated with her completely in the end. Afterall, one’s life is one’s life and we should not care about what others say; everybody should construct their life as they see fit; we live our lives, not other’s and viceversa.And even though is kind of sad on occasion, it also has its moments of black humor; fine irony at today’ society, with its rigid and prejudiced mentality, is present all over the story. The writing is fluent and balanced, easy to follow - a couple of hours reading, worthy all the way.>>> ARC received thanks to Grove Atlantic/Grove Press via NetGalley <<<
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  • Iryna (Book and Sword)
    January 1, 1970
    3.5/5 stars (rounded down)One of my 2018 reading goals was to read more books by asian authors and about asian culture, so this book was perfect for that. I've seen Convenience Store Woman being compared to Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine by Gail Honeyman and while I do see the resemblance, I don't necessarily agree with the comparison.Eleanor Oliphant was definitely a quirky character (my favorite kind) but I was able to relate to Eleanor on a deep emotional level, while Keiko from Conveni 3.5/5 stars (rounded down)One of my 2018 reading goals was to read more books by asian authors and about asian culture, so this book was perfect for that. I've seen Convenience Store Woman being compared to Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine by Gail Honeyman and while I do see the resemblance, I don't necessarily agree with the comparison.Eleanor Oliphant was definitely a quirky character (my favorite kind) but I was able to relate to Eleanor on a deep emotional level, while Keiko from Convenience Store Woman felt very detached and unemotional, which I wasn't able to relate to, but enjoyed nonetheless. Both women follow the same thought process, but Convenience Store Woman definitely takes things to a more bizarre and at times, disturbing level. I absolutely loved the message this book was trying to relay, I just wasn't very keen on it's delivery. While I enjoyed the brisk and to the point writing style, it also felt incomplete at times - I wished to know just a little bit more, just few more details to be able to paint a complete picture.​Maybe I wasn't able to emotionally identify with Keiko much, but the book did make me feel one emotion very strongly - I absolutely despised Shiraha. With every insult he spewed out of his filthy mouth I just wanted to set him on fire and see his skinny, dirty form writhe in pain. He definitely takes a gold for being the most infuriating, hypocritical character ever created! It's astonishing really, how in so little pages a character managed to be so horrid. This book does a phenomenal job painting the even day horrors of society - it is truly terrifying just how messed up we are. So, who is Keiko? Is she really broken and needs fixing, like her parents told her all of her life? Or is she the only one who sees things clear? Is she a waste of space or is she a workaholic who lives, breathes and eats her job? You will have to read to find out!Convenience Store Woman would be perfect for book clubs, school discussions and just any social event involving books. Because this short gem of a novel contains many lessons that need to be heard.Many thanks to Grove Atlantic, Sayaka Murata, and Netgalley for the copy. All opinions are my own, honest and come from the heart. Convenience Store Woman will be published on June 22, 2018.My WEBSITEMy INSTAGRAMMy WORDPRESS BLOG
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  • Ms. Smartarse
    January 1, 1970
    I have also read the German version of this novel(lette), but here I'm only making some observations on the Romanian translation.For someone described as not being particularly interested in pesky little things like feelings, or even the taste of food, the main character comes off as a bit too passionate in this Romanian translation. As a matter of fact, the entire atmosphere of the book feels a bit too much like the familiar Romanian village mindset, rather than the rigidly strict Japanese one. I have also read the German version of this novel(lette), but here I'm only making some observations on the Romanian translation.For someone described as not being particularly interested in pesky little things like feelings, or even the taste of food, the main character comes off as a bit too passionate in this Romanian translation. As a matter of fact, the entire atmosphere of the book feels a bit too much like the familiar Romanian village mindset, rather than the rigidly strict Japanese one. This can be a good thing, as it allows Romanians to relate to it more easily. But it's also a shame, as other translations allow more of an insight into the workings of the Japanese society.This is about all I could reproach the Romanian version. Honestly, if I had not been lucky enough to get access to the German translation, I probably wouldn't even have noticed this. So I heartily recommend this translation. Plus it's much cheaper than the English version... which is yet to be published (at the time of writing).Left: store-bought Romanian edition Right: German edition obtained through NetGalleyScore: 4.4/5 starsI have just one question: What is Keiko's sister's name?The Romanian translation says it's Mami, while the German one has it listed as Asami. Can anyone with access to the original Japanese version check please?
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  • Juli
    January 1, 1970
    Keiko has always felt different. She reacts to emotions, social situations and just life in general a little bit differently than anyone else. Since her early childhood, her family has tried to "fix'' her, lamenting Keiko's odd behaviors and habits. Keiko feels her job is one of the best things that ever happened to her. One day 18 years ago she found the convenience store and applied for a job there, and she's been letting what she learns there form her life and reactions to people ever since. Keiko has always felt different. She reacts to emotions, social situations and just life in general a little bit differently than anyone else. Since her early childhood, her family has tried to "fix'' her, lamenting Keiko's odd behaviors and habits. Keiko feels her job is one of the best things that ever happened to her. One day 18 years ago she found the convenience store and applied for a job there, and she's been letting what she learns there form her life and reactions to people ever since. She uses convenience store greetings, eats convenience store foods and lives a convenience store life. However, being past 30 and working what others see as a deadend, low job has her family once again looking down on her. Poor Keiko....no marriage, no children, no future. What are they going to do about Keiko? And what is Keiko going to do to appease them?This book is different and an absolutely enjoyable read. I love stories that are creative, different and not like anything I've read before. This story definitely surprised me, and kept me reading. Keiko is odd, but she learns how to deal with life, people and her family. She likes her job....but others keep telling her that her life isn't enough. She ponders how to solve the problem, and makes mistakes. It's very hard to pretend to be like everyone else when you aren't like them at all. I was afraid what the ending of this story might bring, but the ending was perfect. Convenience Store Woman is a lovely and bizarre story. Just like Keiko. Loved it! I'm glad this got translated from Japanese to English so I could enjoy the story! :) I hope they translate more of her books! **I voluntarily read an advance readers copy of this book from Grove Atlantic via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are completely my own.**
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  • Wendi Lee
    January 1, 1970
    This short novel epitomizes everything I love about Japanese literature. Keiko is strange, unable to completely fit in in a culture where conformity is compulsive. She thinks things that other people do not, and finds the never-ending obsession over careers, marriage, and children incomprehensible. But her life takes a turn for the better when she finds a job at a convenience store. All of a sudden, her life has meaning. The store hums life into her. ...Eighteen years later, still a convenience This short novel epitomizes everything I love about Japanese literature. Keiko is strange, unable to completely fit in in a culture where conformity is compulsive. She thinks things that other people do not, and finds the never-ending obsession over careers, marriage, and children incomprehensible. But her life takes a turn for the better when she finds a job at a convenience store. All of a sudden, her life has meaning. The store hums life into her. ...Eighteen years later, still a convenience store employee, Keiko is pretending to be a woman she’s not. And other people are starting to catch on. Like many Japanese novels I’ve read in the past, this is a quiet book. What makes it fascinating is Keiko and her rationalizations of the choices she’s made, and her attempts to mimic acceptable women around her. I also love learning about Japanese culture, which is another perk of this novel. Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for an ARC.
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  • Eric Anderson
    January 1, 1970
    Before I moved to England I worked at a fast food restaurant for approximately four months. It was an interim period and the only temporary job I could find in my area. Maybe it was the knowledge that I’d soon be immersed in London culture, but the strange thing about working such a repetitive job was I found it oddly comforting. I quickly formed a routine of long shifts interspersed with periods of reading and deep sleep caused by the utter exhaustion of being on my feet all day. Such mindless Before I moved to England I worked at a fast food restaurant for approximately four months. It was an interim period and the only temporary job I could find in my area. Maybe it was the knowledge that I’d soon be immersed in London culture, but the strange thing about working such a repetitive job was I found it oddly comforting. I quickly formed a routine of long shifts interspersed with periods of reading and deep sleep caused by the utter exhaustion of being on my feet all day. Such mindless uniform work where your duties, attire and even your attitude is regulated by a corporate entity that rigorously enforces such conformity allows you to blend in and not have to think. Keiko, the protagonist of Sayaka Murata’s “Convenience Store Woman”, finds her service job at such a chain store equally comforting. Partly this is because she finds human relationships so bewildering. From early childhood she never knew how to act correctly, but the store's strict policies and motivational team spirit provide her a framework in which to more easily conform and blend in. She integrates so well into the store's corporate mentality that after many years working the same part-time service job she feels like her personality is inextricably tied to the store and that she has no identity apart from it. Read my full review of Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata on LonesomeReader
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  • Bianca
    January 1, 1970
    3.5 *I can't remember the last time I read a Japanese novel. This one was a bit different. The Convenience Store Woman is a character-driven novel. Our protagonist is Keiko Furukura who's a bit different - very likely she's on the Autism spectrum - and is unable to read society's cues, unless somebody spells them out to her clearly. She doesn't have any hobbies; worst of all - she's got no expectations or dreams for herself. She's a thirty six-year-old virgin who's been a convenience store worke 3.5 *I can't remember the last time I read a Japanese novel. This one was a bit different. The Convenience Store Woman is a character-driven novel. Our protagonist is Keiko Furukura who's a bit different - very likely she's on the Autism spectrum - and is unable to read society's cues, unless somebody spells them out to her clearly. She doesn't have any hobbies; worst of all - she's got no expectations or dreams for herself. She's a thirty six-year-old virgin who's been a convenience store worker for eighteen years. She breathes the shop. Her life, her routines revolve around her work schedule. She's very competent, but that's about it. She's like a robot. I found this novel sad, there were no endearing quirks or funny moments. Occasionally, Keiko came up with some smart observations about society, other people's expectations, people's inability to fully embrace those outside the norm.While I can't say I was bored reading this, after all, it's quite short, I'm afraid I wasn't that charmed by it either. I thought the novel's tone was kind of flat, which in a way worked to show us Keiko's automaton, routine-filled life.I've received this novel via Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.
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  • Blair
    January 1, 1970
    Keiko Furukura is a misfit – in her own words, a 'foreign object'. As a child, her odd behaviour attracts criticism and disgust; she doesn't understand why (in her own mind she is acting logically), but she understands enough to know that to be perceived as acceptable, she must change. To avoid further trouble, she passes the rest of her youth as quietly and unobtrusively as possible.Everything changes when Keiko is a student: she gets a part-time job at a local convenience store, and the rhythm Keiko Furukura is a misfit – in her own words, a 'foreign object'. As a child, her odd behaviour attracts criticism and disgust; she doesn't understand why (in her own mind she is acting logically), but she understands enough to know that to be perceived as acceptable, she must change. To avoid further trouble, she passes the rest of her youth as quietly and unobtrusively as possible.Everything changes when Keiko is a student: she gets a part-time job at a local convenience store, and the rhythms and routines of this role prove both addictive and instructive for her. We meet her 18 years later, still working at her beloved convenience store. She has learned to appear normal by observing colleagues, imitating their speech patterns and ways of dressing, but is struggling to fend off the enquiries of her friends and sister, who can't understand why she hasn't found a partner or got a 'better' job. Convenience Store Woman is an unconventional love story. A love story between a woman and a convenience store. Not a particular store, either, but the bigger, broader idea of a store, the ur-store. It's a paean to the things that make life bearable, the things that make sense when the rest of the world seems indecipherable. Keiko's quirks mostly serve to make the character loveable – and frequently actually quite understandable (she often is being more sensible than anyone else, after all).The character of Shiraha, the antagonist, is oddly timely since he's basically an incel. He doesn't fit into society either – at one point he even uses Keiko's term, 'foreign object'. He's weak, unattractive, and awkward; like Keiko, he is single and implicitly a virgin, but unlike Keiko, he is desperate to marry. And his own shortcomings don't stop him from berating Keiko for her uselessness and lecturing her with his favourite theory: that modern society is just like a 'Stone Age village' in which desirable women only go for alpha males. Luckily for her, she's impervious to all this nonsense and treats Shiraha in a weirdly satisfying way – neither arguing with him nor acquiescing, simply ignoring his rants and exploiting his situation to improve her own.The book ends rather abruptly. I'd have liked to keep reading – I had become attached to Keiko, and I wanted to spend more time with this charming character. Simultaneously, I also wish there had been room to expand on Keiko's character and examine other sides to her personality. There's one disturbing moment that seems out of place and is never explored further. Still, I'm glad she gets her very own fairytale ending, however incomprehensible it might be to the rest of her circle.I received an advance review copy of Convenience Store Woman from the publisher through NetGalley.TinyLetter | Twitter | Instagram | Tumblr
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  • Subashini
    January 1, 1970
    A slim novel with a quirky, fun cover that packs a punch and is darker and more subversive than it appears. In depicting a 36-year-old (likely neuroatypical) woman, Murata skewers contemporary society under capitalism and its obsession with competition and self-promotion. What if someone is truly content doing what others see is the bare minimum? How must self-autonomy be sacrificed in order to be seen as a functioning adult, to adhere to social norms? This is a wily, artful book that also depic A slim novel with a quirky, fun cover that packs a punch and is darker and more subversive than it appears. In depicting a 36-year-old (likely neuroatypical) woman, Murata skewers contemporary society under capitalism and its obsession with competition and self-promotion. What if someone is truly content doing what others see is the bare minimum? How must self-autonomy be sacrificed in order to be seen as a functioning adult, to adhere to social norms? This is a wily, artful book that also depicts how gender underlies the social outcast. In Shihara, she depicts an "incel" straight out of the manosphere. He believes he can exist on the margins of society by consuming women's labour for free. The protagonist Keiko, on the other hand, is an ideal capitalist subject who is comfortable being a cog in the machine. Truly puzzled by reviews that see the ending as "happy", when I think that Murata seems to be showing that it's either erasure and alienation by one's own terms or succumb to ideologies of competition and ambition and risk karōshi. Ultimately a sad, discomfiting read because freedom in an alienated society is its own trap.
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  • Booklunatic
    January 1, 1970
    4 Sterne"Wie lästig, warum brauchten die anderen zu ihrer eigenen Beruhigung ständig Erklärungen?"Flüssig zu lesen und bietet dabei durchaus Stoff zum Nachdenken. Thematisch hat es mich an "Die Vegetarierin" erinnert: In beiden Büchern geht es um das "anders sein" und die mangelnde Akzeptanz der Gesellschaft dem gegenüber. Im Gegensatz zu Han Kangs Roman ist "Die Ladenhüterin" aber viel leichter zugänglich und lange nicht so düster.Es ist also eigentlich kein schweres Buch, hat mich aber dennoch 4 Sterne"Wie lästig, warum brauchten die anderen zu ihrer eigenen Beruhigung ständig Erklärungen?"Flüssig zu lesen und bietet dabei durchaus Stoff zum Nachdenken. Thematisch hat es mich an "Die Vegetarierin" erinnert: In beiden Büchern geht es um das "anders sein" und die mangelnde Akzeptanz der Gesellschaft dem gegenüber. Im Gegensatz zu Han Kangs Roman ist "Die Ladenhüterin" aber viel leichter zugänglich und lange nicht so düster.Es ist also eigentlich kein schweres Buch, hat mich aber dennoch durchaus ins Grübeln gebracht. Denn verrückterweise konnte ich mich ein Stück weit mit beiden Seiten in dem Buch identifizieren... Zum Beispiel fühle ich mich als 33jähriger Langzeit-Single auch öfter mal im Rechtfertigungszwang gegenüber Anderen. Ich glaube eigentlich, ähnliche kleinere oder größere Situationen erlebt sogar fast jeder von uns hin und wieder im täglichen Leben. Sobald etwas von "der Norm" abweicht, wird man schräg angeschaut und zum kritischen Gesprächsthema. Gleichzeitig kann ich mich aber wohl auch nicht davon ausnehmen, manchmal ebenso über andere Leute zu urteilen "Der/die ist aber schräg drauf". Warum ist das so, warum sind wir alle so sehr auf "die Norm" konditioniert...?"Normalität setzt sich gewaltsam durch, Fremdkörper werden einfach beseitigt. Menschen, die nicht richtig funktionieren, werden entsorgt."Nach dieser Lektüre werde ich mir auf jeden Fall wieder öfter ins Gedächtnis rufen: Leben und leben lassen!
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  • Jessica Woodbury
    January 1, 1970
    Keiko has always seen the world in her own way, she has never quite fit in with everyone around her. And for most of her life she's been able to make excuses to friends and family about why she's been doing the same thing for her entire adult life. But as she reaches her late 30's, it's getting harder to put everyone off and Keiko doesn't know how to appease everyone. This short, lovely novel is the story of who Keiko is and its entire plot is whether she can grow into someone new.If you haven't Keiko has always seen the world in her own way, she has never quite fit in with everyone around her. And for most of her life she's been able to make excuses to friends and family about why she's been doing the same thing for her entire adult life. But as she reaches her late 30's, it's getting harder to put everyone off and Keiko doesn't know how to appease everyone. This short, lovely novel is the story of who Keiko is and its entire plot is whether she can grow into someone new.If you haven't read much Japanese fiction (so much of what gets translated is genre fiction--thrillers and horror mostly) this is an excellent book to start with that captures the rhythm of much Japanese writing and the strict societal expectations so much Japanese fiction takes as its chief concern, especially for women. Keiko is the kind of protagonist it can be hard to connect with. She has a simple, straightforward view of the world. She is confused by subtlety from others but can dive deeply into complexity when her own work is on her mind. She likes the organized life she has created for herself. (I suspect some will say she's neurodiverse in her lack of empathy, but it seems to me that the book's central argument is that she is not.) But as we get to know her and see the people in her life question her, we become stubbornly on her side, more and more bewitched by her clear outlook. There is a surprisingly suspenseful final act plot development that mucks up the book's structure, pacing, and most other things, which is certainly its intention. The reader becomes putty in Murata's hands, no matter how invested you were before you are heavily invested now and you long desperately for a particular outcome. This could be an excellent book club pick, especially for clubs looking to read diversely, read books by women, or read books with a feminist slant.
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  • Lewerentz
    January 1, 1970
    Gros coup de cœur ! Je viens de tourner la dernière page, alors je n'arrive pas encore à rassembler mes esprits. Un court roman qui parle des "inadaptés", des personnes différentes qui ne rentrent pas dans le moule formaté que la société aimerait nous voir suivre : un boulot stable, mariage, enfants, vie sociale intense, vie sexuelle épanouie, etc.Je me suis sentie proche de l'héroïne sur plusieurs points - peut-être une des raisons de mon plaisir de lecture (?).Vivement recommandé ! 💝
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  • Paul Fulcher
    January 1, 1970
    The Hiiromachi Station Smile Mart has remained open ever since that day, its lights on without a break. Sometimes I use a calculator to work out the number of hours that have passed since then. The other day, the store was open on May 1 for the nineteenth time, having been open continuously for 157,800 hours. I’m now thirty-six years old, and the convenience-store-worker-me is eighteen. None of the other workers who did their training with me are here anymore, and we’re now on our eighth manager The Hiiromachi Station Smile Mart has remained open ever since that day, its lights on without a break. Sometimes I use a calculator to work out the number of hours that have passed since then. The other day, the store was open on May 1 for the nineteenth time, having been open continuously for 157,800 hours. I’m now thirty-six years old, and the convenience-store-worker-me is eighteen. None of the other workers who did their training with me are here anymore, and we’re now on our eighth manager. Not a single product on sale in the store at that time is left. But I’m still here.Convenience Store Woman, translated by Ginny Tapley Takemori from Sayaka Murata's Japanese original (コンビニ人間 which won the Akutagawa Prize) is perhaps best, if lazily, pigeonholed as a Japanese equivalent of Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine, but one without the troubling back story (Keiko's parents are highly affectionate) and, thankfully, without the schmaltzy ending.(On the less positive side, the narrator Keiko also doesn't share my and Eleanor's love of tea:Eleanor: I warmed the teapot, then spooned in some first flush Darjeeling ... Knowing no better my colleagues are content to drop a bag of poorest quality blended tea into a mug, scald it with boiling water, and then dilute any remaining flavour by adding fridge-cold milk. Once again, for some reason, it is I who am considered strange. Keiko: "I hadn’t added a teabag since I didn’t really feel any need to drink flavored liquid".)Keiko appears to be the perfectly trained worker for the ubiquitous and wonderful 24/7 convenience stores that are a feature of East Asia. As the novel opens she explains how she operates:A convenience store is a world of sound. From the tinkle of the door chime to the voices of TV celebrities advertising new products over the in-store cable network, to the calls of the store workers, the beeps of the bar code scanner, the rustle of customers picking up items and placing them in baskets, and the clacking of heels walking around the store. It all blends into the convenience store sound that ceaselessly caresses my eardrums. I hear the faint rattle of a new plastic bottle rolling into place as a customer takes one out of the refrigerator, and look up instantly. A cold drink is often the last item customers take before coming to the checkout till, and my body responds automatically to the sound.Alerted by a faint clink of coins I turn and look over at the cash register. It’s a sound I’m sensitive to, since customers who come just to buy cigarettes or a newspaper often jingle coins in their hand or pocket. And yes: as I’d thought, a man with a can of coffee in one hand, the other hand in his pocket, is approaching the till. I quickly move through the store, slide behind the counter, and stand at the ready so as not to keep him waiting. “Irasshaimasé! Good morning, sir.”Except one is immediately alerted to an anomaly - a convenience store is for part-time temporary work, e.g. for students (or indeed authors such as Murata-san who also worked in a 7-11 while writing her novels), not a place where someone spends almost 20 years refining their craft to almost obsessive perfection. Keiko explains:The time before I was reborn as a convenience store worker is somewhat unclear in my memory. I was born into a normal family and lovingly brought up in a normal suburban residential area. But everyone thought I was a rather strange child. There was the time when I was in nursery school, for example, when I saw a dead bird in the park. It was small, a pretty blue, and must have been someone’s pet . It lay there with its neck twisted and eyes closed, and the other children were all standing around it crying. One girl started to ask: “What should we—” But before she could finish I snatched it up and ran over to the bench where my mother was chatting with the other mothers. “What’s up, Keiko? Oh! A little bird . . . where did it come from I wonder?” she said gently, stroking my hair. “The poor thing. Shall we make a grave for it?”“Let’s eat it!” I said. “What?”“Daddy likes yakitori, doesn’t he?...There was also that big commotion soon after I started primary school, when some boys started fighting during the break time. The other kids started wailing, “Get a teacher!” and “Someone stop them!” And so I went to the tool shed, took out a spade, ran over to the unruly boys, and bashed one of them over the head. Everyone started screaming as he fell down clutching his skull. Seeing as he’d stopped moving , my attention turned to the other boy, and I raised the spade again. “Keiko-chan, stop! Please stop!” the girls shouted at me tearfully. Some teachers came over and, dumbfounded, demanded I explain myself. “Everyone was saying to stop them, so that’s what I did.” Violence was wrong, the bewildered teachers told me in confusion. “But everyone was saying to stop Yamazaki-kun and Aoki-kun fighting! I just thought that would be the quickest way to do it,” I explained patiently. Why on earth were they so angry? I just didn’t get it. My parents were at a loss what to do about me, but they were as affectionate to me as ever. I’d never meant to make them sad or have to keep apologizing for things I did, so I decided to keep my mouth shut as best I could outside home. I would no longer do anything of my own accord, and would either just mimic what everyone else was doing, or simply follow instructions.When "the Smile Mart outside Hiiromachi Station opened on May 1, 1998, soon after I started university, she finds working their her perfect role, where being taught exactly how to behave in different circumstances is key to the job. On her trainingFirst we practiced the various phrases we needed to use in the store. Standing shoulder to shoulder in a line, our backs straight, we lifted the corners of our mouths to match the smiling face in the training poster and in turn called out the stock welcoming phrase: Irasshaimasé! The male trainer checked each of us one by one, instructing us to try again if our voices were too quiet or our expressions too stiff. “Miss Okamoto, don’t be so shy. Smile! Mr. Aizaki, speak up a bit! Try again. Miss Furukura, that’s perfect. Nice and spirited—keep it up!”I was good at mimicking the trainer’s examples and the model video he’d shown us in the back room. It was the first time anyone had ever taught me how to accomplish a normal facial expression and manner of speech.And on her first day, as her first customer approaches, she finally feels normal and accepted:I looked around and saw a man approaching with lots of discounted rice balls in his basket. “Irasshaimasé!” I called in exactly the same tone as before and bowed, then took the basket from him. At that moment, for the first time ever, I felt I’d become a part in the machine of society.I’ve been reborn, I thought. That day, I actually became a normal cog in society.Keiko observes that to mimic what everyone else was doing is ultimately what everyone does in society, adopting the mannerisms, attitudes and speech patterns of those around them. But Keiko does it deliberately rather than naturally:My present self is formed almost completely of the people around me. I am currently made up of 30 percent Mrs. Izumi, 30 percent Sugawara, 20 percent the manager, and the rest absorbed from past colleagues such as Sasaki, who left six months ago, and Okasaki, who was our supervisor until a year ago. My speech is especially infected by everyone around me and is currently a mix of that of Mrs. Izumi and Sugawara. I think the same goes for most people. When some of Sugawara’s band members came into the store recently they all dressed and spoke just like her.Outside work Mrs. Izumi is rather flashy, but she dresses the way normal women in their thirties do, so I take cues from the brand of shoes she wears and the label of the coats in her locker. Once she left her makeup bag lying around in the back room and I took a peek inside and made a note of the cosmetics she uses. People would notice if I copied her exactly, though, so what I do is read blogs by people who wear the same clothes she does and go for the other brands of clothes and kinds of shawls they talk about buying....I’d noticed soon after starting the job that whenever I got angry at the same things as everyone else, they all seemed happy. If I went along with the manager when he was annoyed or joined in the general irritation at someone skiving off the night shift, there was a strange sense of solidarity as everyone seemed pleased that I was angry too.Albeit Keiko still struggles to really understand others and her rather direct, and potentially violent, solutions are never far away, such as when she meets her sister's new born child:The baby started to cry. My sister hurriedly picked him up and tried to soothe him. What a lot of hassle I thought. I looked at the small knife we’d used to cut the cake still lying there on the table: if it was just a matter of making him quiet, it would be easy enough.And as he enters her mid 30s, her colleagues and friends start to enquire about how she can make a temporary university job a permanent career, and about her non-existent love life. Her carefully constructed facade of normality, assisted by her sister who gives her tips on coping, starts to crumble:“Do you mind if I ask you a personal question? Have you ever been in love, Keiko?” Satsuki asked teasingly. “In love?”“Like, have you ever dated anyone? Come to think of it, I’ve never heard you talk about that sort of thing.”“Oh I see. No, I haven’t,” I answered automatically. Everyone fell quiet and exchanged uncomfortable glances with each other. Too late I remembered that my sister had told me in such cases I should give a vague answer like:“ Well, there was someone I liked but I’m not a good judge of men.”Keiko's love of the convenience store comes because it is a forcibly normalized environment where foreign matter is immediately eliminated, where her slavish following of the training manual works to her favour. But now she realises that, similarly, the normal world has no room for exceptions and always quietly eliminates foreign objects. Anyone who is lacking is disposed of. So that’s why I need to be cured. Unless I’m cured, normal people will expurgate me. Finally I understood why my family had tried so hard to fix me.One of her least successful co-workers is a loser (his favourite word for others) who comes to work in the store simply to find a wife, who refuses to follow the 'stupid' rules and is eventually fired for stalking a customer. Keiko has an inspiration - he needs a wife and she needs a facade of normality - they should get married. And so he moves into her tiny flat. His attitude is lazy and sexist:“When you’re a man, it’s all ‘go to work’ and ‘get married.’ And once you’re married, then it’s ‘earn more’ and ‘have children’! You’re a slave to the village. Society orders you to work your whole life. Even my testicles are the property of the village! Just by having no sexual experience they treat you as though you’re wasting your semen.”“I can see how stressful that would be.”“Your uterus belongs to the village too, you know. The only reason the villagers aren’t paying it any attention is because it’s useless. I want to spend my whole life doing nothing. For my whole life, until I die, I want to just breathe without anyone interfering in my life.That’s all I wish for,” he finished, holding his palms together as if in supplication.But Keiko treats him like a household pet, making him spend his days in the bathtub, to the bemusement of her sister who is initially excited thinking Keiko has found love at last:“Oh, but it’s about feeding time anyway.” I took some boiled potatoes and cabbage from the cooking pan and put them along with some rice into a washbasin I kept in the kitchen and took it to the bathroom. Shiraha was sitting on cushions he’d stuffed into the bathtub and fiddling with his smartphone. I held his feed out for him, and he took it. “The bathroom? Is he in the bath?”“Yes, it’s really cramped when we’re together in the room, so I’m keeping him in there.” My sister looked incredulous.Unfortunately Keiko's plan backfires - whereas her co-workers had largely left her unbothered, now they think she is in a relationship they are even more curious, which interrupts the important work of the convenience store to the perfectionist Keiko's annoyance:"Look, it isn’t that there’s anything between us! He’s just staying at my place now, that’s all. What’s important is that we haven’t even started preparing the chicken skewers yet!”“What?” Mrs. Izumi screeched. “You mean you’re living together?”“Seriously?” put in the manager. They sounded so excited I decided it was useless saying anything more and rushed over to the freezer, took out the boxes of chicken skewers, and ran with my arms full back to the cash register. I was shocked by their reaction. As a convenience store worker, I couldn’t believe they were putting gossip about store workers before a promotion in which chicken skewers that usually sold at 130 yen were to be put on sale at the special price of 110 yen. What on earth had happened to the pair of them?I’d always had a lot of respect for manager #8. He was a hard worker and I’d thought of him as the perfect colleague, but now I was sick to death of him only ever talking about Shiraha whenever we met. Until now, we’d always had meaningful worker-manager discussions: “It’s been hot lately, so the sales of chocolate desserts are down,”or “There’s a new block of flats down the road, so we’ve been getting more customers in the evening,”or “They’re really pushing the ad campaign for that new product coming out the week after next, so we should do well with it.” Now, however, it felt like he’d downgraded me from store worker to female of the human species."And persuaded by her new partner to leave the store and look for more permanent employment, Keiko realises her life has lost its meaning:I had judged everything on the basis of whether it was the sensible thing to do for the convenience store, but now I’d lost that standard . There was nothing to guide me over whether an action was rational or not. Before I became a store worker, I must have been following some kind of logic in my judgments, but I’d forgotten whatever guiding principles I’d followed back then.Action needs to be taken ....A very quick and light read, but highly entertaining and with some important things to say about society and its tolerance of those who don't fit the normal criteria.
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  • Jocelyn
    January 1, 1970
    What a delightfully absurd book.Keiko's a bit of an outsider just trying her best to fit into the world around her. She's content with the rather mundane life she lives. The convenience store isn't just her place of employment, it's the only place she feels like she belongs and everything finally makes sense. She parrots and imitates everyone she meets - mostly to keep them off her back - but working at the same convenience store for 18 years is starting to make some eyebrows lift. Something nee What a delightfully absurd book.Keiko's a bit of an outsider just trying her best to fit into the world around her. She's content with the rather mundane life she lives. The convenience store isn't just her place of employment, it's the only place she feels like she belongs and everything finally makes sense. She parrots and imitates everyone she meets - mostly to keep them off her back - but working at the same convenience store for 18 years is starting to make some eyebrows lift. Something needs to change. This basic premise keeps the book flowing in such a compulsive way. I've seen a few uses of the word "quirky" in other reviews and they're not wrong. Keiko's narration is so deadpan and off-kilter that there are several points that honestly made me laugh out loud. The whole thing reads quite cinematically as well, in a very slice-of-life indie movie kind of way. Convenience Store Woman is easy, it's strange, and it's just a lot of fun to breeze through.
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  • Resh (The Book Satchel)
    January 1, 1970
    A wonderful and short read. Keiko is not like everyone else. She might be a undiagnosed autistic person, but we never know for sure. Read this for:- excellent portrayal into the mind of the socially awkward Keiko.- how the convenience store acts as a safe space for Keiko to blend with other humans.- how routine helps people like Keiko- how she struggles to imitate other people so as to be accepted by society even though she cannot understand why she has to do it (she imitiates anger emotions, eq A wonderful and short read. Keiko is not like everyone else. She might be a undiagnosed autistic person, but we never know for sure. Read this for:- excellent portrayal into the mind of the socially awkward Keiko.- how the convenience store acts as a safe space for Keiko to blend with other humans.- how routine helps people like Keiko- how she struggles to imitate other people so as to be accepted by society even though she cannot understand why she has to do it (she imitiates anger emotions, equates a man moving in as 'I've never kept a pet before'- the character of an even more socially awkward person is interesting. He is a hateful character - misogynistic and sexist. He tries to fit in the society as well. He and Keiko are similar in many ways yet very different from one another.- The book characters have a vague similarity to Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine but this one is more realistic while Elenor Oliphant is a feel good read. - I loved how the book ended too. Disclaimer : Much thanks to Portobello Books for a copy of the novel. All opinions are my own.Blog | Instagram | Twitter | Facebook
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  • Jane
    January 1, 1970
    4.5 pleasantly surprised stars for this intriguing little book! Convenience Store Woman is not action-packed nor steeped in drama, but it is a compelling read nonetheless. The story follows Keiko Furukura, a 36-year-old, part-time convenience store employee. The people in her life have always thought she is a little odd, and yet they are perplexed by her seeming inability to move beyond what is seen as a temporary life stage. Keiko, on the other hand, doesn't know why anyone should care that she 4.5 pleasantly surprised stars for this intriguing little book! Convenience Store Woman is not action-packed nor steeped in drama, but it is a compelling read nonetheless. The story follows Keiko Furukura, a 36-year-old, part-time convenience store employee. The people in her life have always thought she is a little odd, and yet they are perplexed by her seeming inability to move beyond what is seen as a temporary life stage. Keiko, on the other hand, doesn't know why anyone should care that she has found contentment in the predictability of her work, and the comfort brought by the rules in the employee manual.I'm not exactly sure how Sayaka Murata managed to write such a captivating account of what is basically the daily routine of a worker in a convenience store, but I could not put this book down! Keiko was a fascinating character, and by the time this (much too short!) story was done, I found myself rooting for her to live her life her own damn way, weirdness and all.I'll definitely be watching for more from this author -- her talent is incredible.Badass Female Character score: 5/5 -- Keiko's living life her own way and shows strength even when others wish she were more "normal".Thank you to NetGalley and Grove Atlantic for providing me with an e-ARC of this book.
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  • Roxana-Mălina Chirilă
    January 1, 1970
    This was such a weird story - for some reason, I really enjoy random, apropos of nothing, odd Japanese stories, and this is one of them.Keiko Furukura is an odd woman, who is very well aware that her reactions to the things around her are odd, so she does her best to imitate others and blend in. When others are upset, she feigns anger; when others are happy, she puts on a smile. When she was in her first year of college, she got a part-time job in a convenience store, where she was taught how to This was such a weird story - for some reason, I really enjoy random, apropos of nothing, odd Japanese stories, and this is one of them.Keiko Furukura is an odd woman, who is very well aware that her reactions to the things around her are odd, so she does her best to imitate others and blend in. When others are upset, she feigns anger; when others are happy, she puts on a smile. When she was in her first year of college, she got a part-time job in a convenience store, where she was taught how to behave, how to smile, how to greet people and how to react, and for the first time, she could blend in. She blended in for 18 years, keeping her part-time job there and having no desire to change it in any way. She has become so attuned to store, that she knows her clients' needs nearly before they do, she can appreciate spikes in the sales of a product or another, she knows how to arrange everything to make the important items stand out and she truly lives and breathes the identity of a convenience store person. There isn't much going on in this book - other than her trying to do what she does best while society is trying to make her more human, to change her, to transform her into something that fits in better. The front cover tells me that it's supposed to be funny, but I found it good-eerie rather than amusing.
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  • Hayley
    January 1, 1970
    I really want to visit a Japanese convenience store after reading this book 😀😀
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