Sunday, February 20, 2022

Convenience Store Woman: Sayaka Murata

Convenience Store Woman is an interesting story about a woman who does not fit in. The novel is short, about 160 pages, and very strange, but I loved it. 

The main character Keiko is a 36-year-old woman who has been a part-time convenience store worker in Tokyo for 18 years. She finds fulfillment and meaning in this job. Yet her family, friends, even coworkers expect her to do more with her life and be more normal. 

As a child, Keiko tended to deal with situations that she did not like by using violence to stop a person doing something. And she did not understand why her solutions were not acceptable. Her mother told her she could not do things like that, and she realized that she had to change, but she never really understood why.

By the time she was an adult, she had figured out ways to fit in, to behave more like others. She finds that the job of working at a convenience store part time fit her perfectly. She designs her whole life around doing her job and would even work more hours if she could. She has learned how to dress and behave in ways that make her more acceptable to others, but she doesn't want to change, to get a better job, or find a man and have children.  

After 18 years in the same job, Keiko begins getting increased pressure to make some changes in her life, and she allows her life to be disrupted. 

My thoughts: 

The story is narrated by Keiko, so, aside from conversations she has with others, the reader gets the story solely from her point of view. I found that way of telling the story to be very effective. I could feel both her pain and her joys as the story progresses. Anyone whose life has aspects that don't fit the traditional mold can sympathize with how others want you to fit that mold in order to make themselves more comfortable.

The story also provides an interesting perspective on life in Japan. It was a thought-provoking read and had a great ending. 

I read this book for the Japanese Literature Challenge


Publisher:   Grove Press, 2018 (orig. pub. 2016 as Konbini ningen)
Translated from the Japanese by Ginny Tapley Takemori 
Length:       163 pages
Format:       Hardcover
Setting:       Tokyo, Japan
Genre:        Fiction
Source:       Purchased in 2021.


col2910 said...

Sounds like the kind of book I might enjoy. Never heard of it previously or the author, so thanks.... I think!

pattinase (abbott) said...

Listening to it on audio right now and realize that is a mistake when you are distracted. Maybe I will finish it after my life settles down.

Margot Kinberg said...

I like the context and premise of this one, Tracy. It sounds like a really interesting look at the culture as much as anything else, and I give credit to an author who can tell a story without being overlong about it.

Cath said...

This sounds like an interesting little read so I might read it for my Round the World challenge.

Lark said...

I've heard so many good things about this novel, I really need to read it.

TracyK said...

Col, I liked this book so much I wanted to read more by this author, but her other translated books sound maybe too weird for me, so I am going to wait on that.

TracyK said...

Patti, one reason I don't listen to books is because I cannot imagine being able to focus on the book or remember what I have read. But I am sure I will try a book on audio someday.

TracyK said...

Margot, both this book and the one I finished most recently, Strange Weather in Tokyo, reveal a lot about Japanese culture. I find that Japanese crime fiction books that I have read don't do that so much, although I enjoy them for other reasons.

TracyK said...

Cath, as I mentioned to Margot, I recently finished another Japanese book, Strange Weather in Tokyo, and it is about the same length and also very interesting. I am going to use one of those two books for the Immersion category in Book Bingo (a book you can't stop thinking about).

Sam Sattler also reviewed Convenience Store Woman and his review was interesting (of course).

TracyK said...

I agree, Lark, you need to read it. I think you would like it, but if not, I would be interested in your thoughts on it.

Katrina said...

I'm so glad that I can borrow this one from a local library as I'm intrigued by your mention of a great ending.

TracyK said...

The library is a great way to try this out, Katrina. I suppose it always depends on each reader's perspective, but I thought the ending was perfect.

Rick Robinson said...

I keep looking back in to see if you have a short story post… also have you decided whether to read Justine?

CLM said...

How did you happen to come across this book, Tracy? I do feel as if there are other recent books about characters who don't fit it and are missing life's cues (but are not sociopaths) and good authors really do make one empathize - as in The Maid, which I read recently, or Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine.

TracyK said...

Rick, Sorry not to reply to your comment yesterday, but we had lot our internet connection for about a day and a half. Hooray, it is back now. I did email you after I saw this comment in my email.

I never got back to finishing my short story post on Wednesday because over half the day was spent with the plumber working on getting the water heater working and then the next day we lost the internet connection. I will probably just hold it until next Tuesday / Wednesday, maybe get a few more stories in the book read.

Yes, I am definitely going to read Justine, soon I hope. And also I found a copy of The Music Box Murders, which is on its way to me in the mail.

TracyK said...

Constance, regarding how I came across this book, my husband saw it and likes Japanese fiction, so he put it on our wish list and we both decided to read it. I had heard of it from other blogs by that time.

I looked up the summary of The Maid at Goodreads and that definitely sounds like a book I want to read, not that I need to add any more books to my list. I would also like to read Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine sometime. Thanks for those suggestions.