Convenience Store Woman - Book Review


'Convenience Store Woman' is the heartwarming and surprising story of thirty-six-year-old Tokyo resident Keiko Furukura. Keiko has never fit in, neither in her family, nor in school, but when at the age of eighteen she begins working at the Hiiromachi branch of “Smile Mart,” she finds peace and purpose in her life. In the store, unlike anywhere else, she understands the rules of social interaction—many are laid out line by line in the store’s manual—and she does her best to copy the dress, mannerisms, and speech of her colleagues, playing the part of a “normal” person excellently, more or less. Managers come and go, but Keiko stays at the store for eighteen years. It’s almost hard to tell where the store ends and she begins. Keiko is very happy, but the people close to her, from her family to her coworkers, increasingly pressure her to find a husband, and to start a proper career, prompting her to take desperate action…

A brilliant depiction of an unusual psyche and a world hidden from view, 'Convenience Store Woman' is an ironic and sharp-eyed look at contemporary work culture and the pressures to conform, as well as a charming and completely fresh portrait of an unforgettable heroine.

Keiko Furukura is a convenience store worker who's worked in the same convenience store for 18 years since she graduated from university. It's what she loves to do, it's what she believes is her calling -- to be a convenience store worker. She'd always been perceived as awkward right from childhood, something she had been unaware of until she got older. She hadn't quite understood people's reactions to things she said or did as a young girl.

As she gets older, and because of comments from her parents, friends and everyone else, she feels the pressure to become someone she wasn't, and she begins imitating behaviors, speech tones, body language, and so on. She puts on a front every time she's around old friends or coworkers, laughing a certain way, tuning up her voice a certain way, just so she can blend in.

Eventually, Keiko is forced to consider what every instinct in her body was fighting against, and make a decision to either quit her job and get a higher-class job, or get married and have kids. Everyone, including the store manager, couldn't understand why was still comfortably working in the same convenience store for the last 18 years.

The book speaks on society's rejection of anything that doesn't conform to society's idea of norm. Society boasts of fighting for diversity, but in actuality, there is still judgment against those who don't fit in with its expectations. Sometimes we're forced to put on a front when in a certain environment just so we can blend in and not stand out or be considered weird or awkward -- a well-known survival strategy that has been modernly termed code-switching. The book stresses on the need to be and accept yourself as you are, regardless of what or how everyone around you expects you to be or act.

'Convenience Store Woman' is a short and lovely read, one I found quite endearing and refreshing. Would love to read other works by Japanese author Sayaka Murata!👐

My rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ / 5
Genre: Contemporary / Women's fiction
Maturity rating: 13+

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