Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata (trans. Ginny Tapley Takemori)
Dates Read: March 18-24, 2019
Synoposis: 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 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? (from Goodreads)
I read this for Romanceopoly — Women’s Avenue: Read a women’s fiction novel.
This book brings home the idea that people have preconceived notions of how others (especially women) should live and get upset when even complete strangers don’t fit that mold. I like that, in the end, Keiko stands up for herself. She may not be who she’s “supposed” to be according to society, but she is who she wants to be.
I don’t know what it is, but this book just pulls you in almost effortlessly. From the first paragraph, I was in Keiko Furukura’s head. Everything she said made sense, even if it wasn’t something I would ordinarily think. I think that’s part of the point, really. What we define as “normal” is just what is generally accepted, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it really is “normal” — whatever that is.
Furukura is an interesting character, for sure. I’d wager that she falls somewhere on the spectrum, even though it’s not explicitly stated in the book and I don’t want to label her incorrectly. I found it interesting how she would make a statement that other people found odd but that really make sense when you stop to think about it, like when she wanted to cook a dead bird and eat it for practicality’s sake but everyone else wanted to bury it and kill flowers to lay on its grave. It’s because of thoughts like these that made everyone else in the book want to “cure” her because she wasn’t “normal.” When you see this through Furukura’s persepective, it really makes you stop and question how you judge other people. Your normal isn’t everyone else’s normal. You shouldn’t necessarily judge others based on your own set of standards or rules, just as you wouldn’t want to be judged for your differences or quirks. Furukura’s so-called friends, whose company she didn’t really even enjoy, kept wanting to “cure” her abnormalities “for her own good,” when really the best thing they could do for her would be to let her be herself.
Shiraha, though. I wanted to slap him. He came off as lazy and incorrigible to me — not to mention misogynistic. He kept comparing the society of the current era to the cave men, when really he was the cave man in this story. He offered nothing to society, which, incidentally, is what he wanted and one of the points of this book. Does everyone have to offer something to society, and if so, who determines the parameters for that? I don’t think that’s a question easily answered, if it can even be answered at all. I do think, though, that if you mooch off of other people and don’t even care for yourself when you are in fact capable of doing so, then there’s a problem.
Interest Value: 4/5
From the first page, I was enraptured by this book. It sounds cliché, but this book makes you think. Even for such a short work, it really threads itself into your life. You start to make connections to it in the everyday. I think there’s something about Japanese literature in particular that has the capacity to do that. The works I’ve read by Japanese authors have always left me reeling, in both good and bad ways. This was one of the good ones.
- “When morning comes, once again I’m a convenience store worker, a cog in society. This is the only way I can be a normal person.” (Loc 223)
- “Infecting each other like this is how we maintain ourselves as human is what I think.” (Loc 262)
- “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. When we last met a few years ago, most of the store workers were laid-back university students, so of course my way of speaking was different then.” (Loc 326)
- “From where I stood, there were two types of prejudiced people — those who had a deep-rooted urge for prejudice and those who unthinkingly repeated a barrage of slurs they’d heard somewhere.” (Loc 637)
- “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.” (Loc 781)
- “Maybe people who thought they were being violated felt a bit better when they attacked other people in the same way.” (Loc 880)
- “You eliminate the parts of your life that others find strange — maybe that’s what everyone means when they say they want to “cure” me.” (Loc 906)