Convenience Store Woman

by Sayaka Murata

Other authorsGinny Tapley Takemori (Translator)
Hardcover, 2018

Call number

FICT MUR

Collection

Genres

Publication

Grove Press (2018), Edition: First English Edition, First Printing, 176 pages

Description

"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 ." --… (more)

Media reviews

In Sayaka Murata’s “Convenience Store Woman,” a small, elegant and deadpan novel from Japan, a woman senses that society finds her strange, so she culls herself from the herd before anyone else can do it. She becomes an anonymous, long-term employee of the Hiiromachi Station Smile Mart, a convenience store, a kiosk for her floating soul...“Convenience Store Woman” has touched a chord in Japan, where it has sold close to 600,000 copies....I have mixed feelings about “Convenience Store Woman,” but there is no doubt that it is a thrifty and offbeat exploration of what we must each leave behind to participate in the world.
1 more
Not all novel titles manage so very literally to describe the contents, but this one – unapologetically deadpan yet enticingly comic – absolutely does...This, Murata’s 10th novel, has been a big hit both in Japan and worldwide, and it isn’t hard to see why. It’s not flawless: Shiraha seems to be more of a plot enabler than fully realised character and, though Murata’s gloriously nutty deadpan prose and even more nuttily likable narrator are irresistible, I’d have liked more on her latent psychopathic streak...But these are minor quibbles and perhaps even missing the point. For it’s the novel’s cumulative, idiosyncratic poetry that lingers, attaining a weird, fluorescent kind of beauty all of its own.. The book’s title is more than perfect, for this, you soon realise, is a love story. Keiko’s love story: the convenience is all hers.

User reviews

LibraryThing member lycomayflower
This short Japanese novel perplexed me, mostly, I think, because I don't know enough about Japanese culture to get which (if any) bits of the story were over the top and/or satire. Keiko works at a 24-hour convenience store and has done so for eighteen years--"too long," according to her family and co-workers. It's time she either got a "real" job or got married. But Keiko is perfectly content with her part-time job and tiny apartment. There's obviously commentary about conformity and cultural/societal expectations going on here, but Keiko also seems possibly on the autism spectrum? Or perhaps a sociopath? Or maybe not? And it is the ambiguity about that point that I can't quite read--and also the intensity of everyone's insistence that she cannot remain a convenience store worker. Is that exaggerated in service of the point? Or not? Ultimately I'm glad I read this and feel like it was entirely worthwhile, but I'm still not sure what to do with it. And that's okay.… (more)
LibraryThing member TooBusyReading
The best thing about this short audio book? That it was short. Despite that, I almost gave up on it. A woman who is a misfit has a job at a convenience store, and the store becomes her life. Rules are important. Copying people so they will accept you is important. Having friends is not important. A not-very-reliable co-worker comes along, and then, apparently it becomes important to at least pretend to fit into the world's expectations.

I understand what the book was trying to tell me. I understand the underlying message. I even liked the protagonist. But for me, the story just wasn't interesting. Both the translation and narration felt stilted. Perhaps part of that was character driven, but it just felt like a poor production. I'm sorry I bought this one.

Of course, everyone has different tastes in books, so you may love this book.
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LibraryThing member LisCarey
Keiko Furukara is thirty-six years old, and was a misfit everywhere, in her family and at school, until at the age of eighteen she began working in a new branch of national convenience store chain Smile Mart. The store employee manual gives her a set of rules. The uniform relieves issues of how to dress during the work day. Her coworkers provide her with examples of how to talk--and what to appear excited, happy, or angry about. She learns the rhythms and needs of the store, and even working only part-time, she becomes the store's best worker, and outlasts fellow part-timers and a total of seven managers. She's on her eighth manager when she realizes her family and her small number of friends are really worried about her, and want her to adopt a more normal, and to their minds happier, lifestyle.

She starts to realize that this time, they're not letting up. And that she's only going to be able to do convenience store work as long as she stays fit and healthy, something that is only partly in her control.

There are also some strange things happening in the store. One of them is a man her own age, a new employee, who looks down on convenience store work, but can't hold any other job because of his own peculiar attitude. His situation is even less socially acceptable than Keiko's, and his own family is far less tolerant.

Will Keiko find a way to fit in, or will she find a way to embrace who she is?

The story is engaging, funny, and sometimes disturbing, but I couldn't help rooting for Keiko.

Recommended.

I bought this audiobook.
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LibraryThing member Petroglyph
This was an oddball character study that aims high and pulls it all off.

The novella’s narrator is Keiko Furukawa, autistic. She has a hard time figuring out how to behave in ways that society finds acceptable, and so when she speaks to people, she copy-pastes her intonations, word choices and speaking styles from various colleagues. Fortunately, she works part-time in a 24/7 convenience store, where lots of colleagues work for brief periods before moving on, and so she has plenty of people to copy without her camouflage ever becoming obvious.

That part-time job was a great way of seeming “normal” when she was eighteen, and her family was happy for her then. She’s thirty-six now, though, and shows no hint of ever wanting to change her life, and that is making Keiko seem suspiciously abnormal to society in general and her family and friends in particular. But the job is perfect for Keiko: after all, it came with a manual that tells her exactly how to address customers, and with a training video that illustrates the correct inflections and level of enthusiasm to display -- and she does them perfectly. She couldn’t fit better into her job, but it’s the very thing that is threatening to undo her camouflage.

Enter the central conceit of the novella: Shiraha, a male colleague her own age, who definitely displays many features of misogynistic toxic masculinity -- he considers himself beta and has given up on even trying to compete with ambitious, high-earning alphas for both money and access to females (though he does not use those terms). As it turns out, autistic Keiko and misogynistic Shiraha find common ground in their issues with all the things society expects from them and which they are not equipped to handle.

That is the central idea of the book, and I think Murata did a really good job of developing it into plausibility (though it’s not a complete success). But where this novella really shines is Keiko’s inner life: her tools and tricks of the trade of appearing “normal”, her contentedness with her (to outsiders) dead-end life, and her out-of-left-field planning to prevent her life from derailing.

Very well done. I think I shall be recommending this to lots of people I know.
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LibraryThing member foggidawn
Keiko has been working in a convenience store since she was 18, and she loves it. It’s her tiny, orderly world, where all of the rules are laid out in the employee manual and all of her interactions are driven by what’s best for the store. Her family and friends are perplexed, though: doesn’t she want to get married? Shouldn’t she get a real job? Societal norms have always confused Keiko. As she absorbs their criticism, she starts to wonder if maybe she should make more of an attempt to conform.

I found myself entirely absorbed in Keiko’s world, empathizing with her quandary in many ways. This is a quick, fascinating read. Recommended.
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LibraryThing member alexrichman
An utterly charming bite-sized book - more short story than novella even, but brilliant nonetheless. A sort of Catcher in the Rye for today's alienated post-youth. Some parts resonated with me more than others, but I'm sure every reader will see fragments of themselves in Convenience Store Woman. It's hard to imagine anyone not liking it.… (more)
LibraryThing member KateVane
This intriguing short novel builds slowly but is worth the wait. It is the story of Keiko, the convenience store worker of the title. She is a committed employee who has done the same routine tasks for eighteen years with enthusiasm and diligence.

Keiko is aware that she does not feel as other people do. She does not understand the expectations of society but is conscientious in mimicking the people around her. wearing the right clothes, showing the right facial expressions and saying the right things.

Keiko comes under a lot of pressure to have a career or a husband or, ideally, both. She does not understand why this matters so much to other people but is careful not to criticise their expectations. Her conformity is enabled by her sister, who is aware of Keiko’s difference but eager to conceal it.

Keiko’s life changes when Shiraha begins to work at the convenience store. He too has failed to meet society’s expectations, but rather than adapting, he is angry. He sees himself as a victim and believes it is always someone else, never himself, that is to blame for his problems.

This book has such a lovely voice and a subtle, understated humour. It asks interesting questions about what it is to conform and to belong. On the one hand, Keiko’s complete acceptance of the terms of a low-paid, demanding job might feel like exploitation, but on the other she shows strength in constructing a life on her own terms.

While the pressure for a woman to marry is perhaps greater in Japan than in the West (embarrassing aunties at your sister’s wedding notwithstanding) it does raise questions about what pressures we do accept without question, and how we look at those who choose not to belong.

The people around Keiko, even those who claim to care for her, are only interested in the surface. Keiko struggles to understand the feelings of others, but they have not even tried to understand hers, assuming that her needs are the same as society’s.

Keiko is both charming and subversive. When as a child she asked why it is wrong to eat a dead bird found in the park, but alright to buy a dead bird to eat from the supermarket, she showed more logic than most adults. Many of her perceptions are quite sensible, even though she is the one who her friends believe is in need of a ‘cure’.

Convenience Store Woman is an engaging story and its simple, spare prose asks some deceptively complex questions.
*
I received a copy of Convenience Store Woman from the publisher via Netgalley.
Read more of my reviews at katevane.com/blog
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LibraryThing member bogopea
Novel about a Japanese convenience store clerk (for 18 years) who could never assimilate herself in society as a "normal" human being. She worked at the store during college and found her niche. Her family tried to help her as a child but nothing worked. It's really a quirky, sweet, poignant and sometimes funny book. She adopts other people's mannerisms, syntax, fashion, etc. to fit in. In a last ditch attempt to appear normal to those around her she has a male loser/freeloader (who once worked at the store) move in with her so that people would think she was in a relationship; and, quit her job to get a real one. In the end, she couldn't do either. She realized she was a "convenience store animal" and that was good enough for her.… (more)
LibraryThing member RidgewayGirl
Convenience Store Woman, by Japanese author Sayaka Murata, and translated into English by Ginny Tabley Takemori, is a novella about a woman who is happy and fulfilled with her job at a large convenience store. But as she ages, her friends marry and advance in their careers and a menial job is no longer acceptable. Keiko's happiness begins to falter at the pressure and disapproval. At the same time, a new employee, one who openly despises the job, begins work at the store.

This is just a delightful story. Keiko is an unusual narrator, utterly devoted to routine and rules, she carefully studies the demeanor of others to know how to behave. This leaves her unable to withstand the social opprobrium she faces from her friends and family. Keiko is such a wonderful character, and her story is told with such understated compassion.
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LibraryThing member jphamilton
Can you say another truly odd novel from Japan? The story is the simple story of a very conscientious worker in a convenience store. She buys the corporate mindset the whole way, even to the point of making sure that her body is in prime condition for her job. Unkempt shelves are wrong. Not giving one's best effort is wrong.
And then she ends up taking as a roommate, a totally subpar former coworker. The relationship is odd from the beginning.
I think to truly appreciate this book, and all its simplicity, you just have to take the dive between the covers for yourself.
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LibraryThing member underthebookpile
This quirky novel follows Kiko, an emotionally detached woman who doesn't understand how to function "normally" until she begins working at a convenience store and literally gets a manual on how to smile, act, and behave as an employee. This job becomes her sole focus in life, but she knows her friends and family consider her to be strange and in need of a "cure" to be normal.

It reminded me a lot of "Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine" but with a slightly more sad lean. It acknowledges that while you must be true to yourself, that won't necessarily equate to happiness. Sometimes, being yourself can be a lonely place.
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LibraryThing member ozzer
Society imposes acceptable behaviors. Many of these have long histories going back to the cavemen. Learning these is an essential part of growing up. Success with them provides a framework for achieving happiness and fulfillment in the community.

Murata playfully explores these ideas by placing her protagonist/narrator in a Japanese convenience stores. The Hiiromachi Station Smile Mart is a wonderful metaphor for the wider community. Its employees adopt roles that allow for the smooth running and financial success of the store. Everything revolves around marketing even false pleasantries like shouting good morning to everyone who enters (“Irasshaimasé”).

Keiko Furukura is a middle-aged employee who has been working happily at the store for many years. Prior to this job, she was the kind of person who was too logical and truthful for her own good. Society rejected her and her family felt she needed to be “cured.” The structure she found at the convenience store provided what she needed to adapt. Everything seems to be working out well for Keiko until the store hires Shiraha. This young man is a firm non-conformist who knows what he wants (a wife to support him) and is not shy about expressing his views of what he perceives as an oppressive society. After Shiraha gets himself fired, Keiko takes pity on him and offers to share her really tiny flat with him. This grifter cons her into believing that living with him will make her appear more normal. This seems to work well enough until it doesn’t. While spending his days in her bathtub, he decides she needs to get a better job.

CONVENIENCE STORE WOMAN is a simple story with a fable-like quality. The theme is heavy; nevertheless Sayaka keeps the mood light. She treats her characters with affection and understanding. Shiraha, a pretty despicable guy, is portrayed as such a loser that even he evokes a bit of sympathy. This novel has a lot to say and does it deftly. Its brevity only adds to its appeal. It is well worth reading a couple of times—once for the fun and once for the ideas.
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LibraryThing member bookworm12
A quirky short novel about a 36-year-old woman who works in a convenience store. She's not "normal" by society's standards and has a hard time understanding the expectations of others and has no desire to follow a traditional path. In a small way it reminded me of Melville's "Bartleby the Scrivener".

“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.”… (more)
LibraryThing member breic
This is a bit of an absurdist fable, along the lines of Abe's "The Woman in the Dunes" except transplanted to a 7-11. It's cute and fast, but the preaching is tedious.
LibraryThing member janeajones
Keiko Furukara narrates this short novel about her life as a clerk in the Hiiromachi Station Smile Mart. She has worked there for 18 years since she first got the position as the store opened -- it was a brand new convenience market in a business district, and she had just finished school. In the culture of the store, she finds her perfect niche. The employees' behavior is outlined in the company manual, and all the stock is displayed in a manner most employed to catch the customers' attention and highlight the store's current sales and promotions. She eats, sleeps and lives for the position she has found despite mounting pressure from her family to find a "real" job or better yet, to get married.

In elementary school, Keiko had learned to cope with her peers by simply keeping silent. The few times she had reacted to situations, her reactions, perfectly logical to her at the time, were deemed totally unacceptable -- for instance, when two boys got into a fight, and everyone was yelling at them to stop, she simply picked up a shovel and hit one over the head. This and a few similar occurences led her loving parents to try to find an elusive "cure" for her.

While it is difficult for someone not intimately knowlegeable about Japanese culture and the kind of exploration/satire Murata is employing, for me, as a Western reader, the novel seems to be exploring the reality and coping mechanisms employed by someone on the autism/Aspergers syndrom scale. The book is wry and has some definite humorous moments as well as a fairly strong message about "living and let live."
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LibraryThing member PersephonesLibrary
What’s it about?
Keiko Furukura has been “different” and an outsider for all of her life. When she finds a job in a Kombini, a Japanese convenience store, she finally finds a place where she feels comfortable.
After eighteen years she learns that if a woman hasn’t made a career or is happily married with kids, she’s a “failure”. Tired of questions of her family and friends she starts looking for a solution – and her new co-worker Shiraha could be a part of it…

How was it?
I liked the light narration voice. Keiko is an adorable character: She represents well the lack of understanding for socially developed norms and values which seem unshakable. The reader can follow Keiko’s thoughts very well: Her relieve of having a place where she knows how everything works and has to be is perceptible in between the pages.
The writing style is very vivid and Murata paints a colourful picture of the magic of a Japanese Kombini.
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LibraryThing member SigmundFraud
Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata is a new short novel by a Japanese writer. It is clean, short sentences, refreshing. It is the story of a single woman in Tokyo who at the age of eighteen begins working part time at a convenience store. She stays there for eighteen years and derives her identity and self image from the store. A store where turnover of staff is high, she remains for almost two decades. The story feels Japanese in the strong urge to conform of the main character as well as others. Her friends don't seem to be able to accept that she is unmarried and without children. That makes her somewhat alien in this conformist society. She eventually allows a man, a loser to live with her in her tiny apartment to make it look that she is conforming, though they have no sexual relations and she has never had a sexual relation which makes her friends uncomfortable. It is a bit of a weird book but very satisfying. I highly recommend it.… (more)
LibraryThing member akblanchard
Keiko loves the daily rhythms of her part-time job at her local convenience store, so much so that at 36 years old, she has never wanted to do anything else. When an unpreposessing but available man comes into her life, her family and coworkers breathe a sigh of relief that Keiko might finally get married and lead a life more in line with societal expectations. But our unlikely heroine can't leave the store behind. This brief novel is a delight through and through.… (more)
LibraryThing member RiversideReader
Delicious!
LibraryThing member xiaomarlo
This book rules! I highlighted so many good portions. It reminds me a lot of Bartleby the Scrivener. A modern, feminist, asexual version. Really great, and a fast read, too.
LibraryThing member oldblack
Woah! What a crazy bizarre story! Or is it really Japanese life that is crazy and bizarre? I have no idea, but I enjoyed reading this book and imagining that the lives described are only one step away from reality. I could relate directly to some aspects of the underlying story, however, despite my cultural distance. I suspect that Japanese society and its conformity pressures are not as far from my own society as I would hope.… (more)
LibraryThing member KatherineGregg
I loved listening to Convenience Store Woman. Convenience stores in Japan sell everything from food to clothing to household goods and Keiko Furukura, the main character, is a convenience store worker. Keiko is a bit of a social outcast and can not read social cues. I would say that she is Aspbergery. Over time, with plenty of input from her sister, Keiko has learned to copy others behaviors and to respond to questions with pat answers so that she can fit in. Conformity in Japan is very important. Keiko, now 36, has been working at the same convenience store since high school. The job is very routine, Keiko knows exactly what is expected of her, she's good at her job and she enjoys it. However the outside world and her high school friends, who are mostly married or working high level jobs, look down on convenience store workers. Keiko finds another misfit at the store, Shiraha, who eventually gets fired because he is lazy and slouches on the job. Keiko invites him to move in with her which is a win win for both them - society expects everyone to get married and live happily ever after and so they can pretend to be a couple. In reality, Shiraha is mean, demanding and sleeps in the bathtub and expects Keiko to feed him. Eventually Keiko quits her job but once she starts interviewing for other jobs, realizes that all she wants to do is go back to work at a convenience store which she does.… (more)
LibraryThing member mbmackay
An excellent, and extremely quirky book from Japan. The story of a 36 year old part time convenience store worker who struggles to understand the world. Possibly on the Asperger spectrum, she finds comfort in the ritualised behaviour required of the convenience store workers.
If the aim of a book is to transport you to s different time and place - this one succeeded brilliantly.… (more)
LibraryThing member Yoh
This is a strange, quirky, atmospheric novella translated from Japanese.
It’s difficult for me to rate it because I’m fascinated by this little book, but also I don’t think I liked it very much. I thought the story was just ok, fine. But then the writing and the world she creates just seeped into my brain and long after I’ve finished it I can still feel all the weirdness. Murata is a talented storyteller. Her main character, Keiko, talks about how the convenience store is a part of her and in a way this book is a part of me now.… (more)
LibraryThing member ASKelmore
Best for:
Anyone whose life doesn’t fit the script. And anyone whose does, but insists that other’s lives fit as well.

In a nutshell:
Keiko is 36, single, and has been working in the same convenience store since she was 18. Family and friends want her to get another job, find a husband, and maybe have a child.

Worth quoting:
“When something was strange, everyone thought they had the right to come stomping in all over your life to figure out why. I found that arrogant and infuriating, not to mention a pain in the neck.”
“The normal world has no room for exceptions and always quietly eliminates foreign objects. Anyone who is lacking is disposed of.”
“People who are considered normal enjoy putting those who aren’t on trial, you know.”

Why I chose it:
It’s been on display everywhere I go lately, so I finally picked it up. Glad I did!

Review:
Keiko doesn’t fit into what society expects of women. She works part-time in a job that others look down upon, she doesn’t date, and she doesn’t have many friends or interests outside of work. She makes people uncomfortable because she doesn’t have the same life goals as others - she has no interest in sex, she doesn’t want another job. She studies others so she can fit in better, but overall she’d just be happy if people let her be. But of course, people don’t, including a misogynistic jackass who starts - and quickly leaves - work at the same convenience store.

This is a short book, but it packs a lot into it. Author Murata uses an interesting and different character - one who it might be hard to initially relate to - to make a bigger point about life and what we expect from it for not just ourselves, but others. I get a taste of it at times because I am not having children; some people with children often seem to not entirely know what to do with me once they realize that I’m not going to change my mind. And on a more serious level, I see this playing out in my home town of Seattle, where people who aren’t fulfilling what others view as their duty (namely, to somehow miraculously figure out how to find a home with money they don’t have) are viewed as a drain on society. There’s a life script, and people who follow it (usually people who, I would argue, are unhappy they had to follow it) can be utterly cruel to those who either can’t, won’t, or don’t want to.

Obviously this is complicated by the fact that the thing that seems to make Keiko happy is working in what so many people think of as a soul-crushing job. I saw one review that considered this a horror book. And perhaps part of it is. Or perhaps the author picked something that it would be hard for so many of us to see as a positive to challenge us further. Either way, I’m into it.

Keep it / Pass to a Friend / Donate it / Toss it:
Keep it
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Pages

176

ISBN

0802128254 / 9780802128256
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