Convenience Store Woman

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 06 Jul 2018

Member Reviews

Convenience Store Woman is reminiscent of Gail Honeyman's Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine. The novel by Sayaka Murata portrays the moving narrative of a woman, Keiko, who has always felt at odds with who she is. Misunderstood by her family, she finds ease in the routinely existence of a convenience store worker, where organizing shelves, labeling products and greeting customers makes Keiko feels that at least there, she belongs.
But Keiko can't ignore the unforgiving patriarchal society she lives in, and when a new worker joins the store she begins to think that perhaps normalcy can be found beyond the glaring lights of the convenience store.
Murata's story brings readers closer to a woman who defies society rules in her own way, who merely wants an opportunity to live life the way she wants to live it. Convenience Store Woman is without a doubt one of this year's must-reads.
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I really enjoyed this book and felt that it really captured that slice of life feeling that is synonymous with Japanese literature. There were some moments where I did laugh out loud at Keiko and her view of the world, I found myself nodding along more than once. I read this book in three sittings but each time really didn't want to put it down, not because I wanted to know what happens next as I knew that there wouldn't be some big reveal, but because it was just a delight to read after a long day.
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Unsettling. I can wrap up the review for Sayaka Murata’s “The Convenience Store Woman” in that one word. But first, a big thank you to NetGalley and publisher Grove Atlantic for this ARC. 

The convenience store woman of the title is Keiko Furukura, a slightly eccentric woman in her mid-30s, who has been working at the Smile Mart for over 16 years. She is diligent and focused and seems to love her job at the store. As the book progresses, we see how she gets into a pact of convenience with Shiraha, who works at the store for a brief while, and allows him to live with her for mutual benefits. The rest of the story is about how that pans out for both of them.

The first thing you know by this point is that Keiko is not a “normal” woman. She holds the same job for an inordinately long time, and in a convenience store of all places, which is unheard of. She is single and shows no intention of even going on a date and she displays very Asperger’s Syndrome-like behaviour. These and other quirks are more than enough to classify her as “abnormal” by everyone including her parents who are always trying to “cure” her.  Keiko struggles to understand why things like hitting a boy in the head or even thinking of taking a knife to a child to keep him quiet is a matter of consternation to people. 

“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. Sometimes I even wanted to hit them with a shovel to shut them up, like I did that time in elementary school.”

Obviously, Keiko is someone we never warm up to but we do understand her problem of being an outcast in society. Not just because she has odd tendencies like beating up people to keep them quiet but simply because she stands out in the homogenized mass of married people. Shiraha is Keiko’s male counterpart, an oddball and a deeply distressed one at that. His one wish is to get away from all the people who question him and pressurize him for answers.  

To me, Keiko and Shiraha are the symbols of the growing class of people who are making conscious choices to stay away from the otherwise deadening regularity of life. They are highly individualistic people who seem alien because they stay on the fringes of society and are happy to do so. Keiko is genuinely puzzled when she is endlessly questioned on her lack of a “proper job” and a husband. 

“I can’t go on like this? You mean I shouldn’t be living the way I am now? Why do you say that?”

And she reasons it out to herself

“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.”

Sayaka Murata brilliantly captures the angst of these misfits and also provides an overview of Japanese society, which has been riddled with problems of celibacy and disinterest in having children in recent years. Although, not everyone can empathize with the slightly extreme proclivities that Keiko and Shiraha have, we can certainly identify with their feeling of frustration at being questioned repeatedly over their choices and of desperately trying to keep themselves from being subsumed by the heaving mass of a monochromatic society.

The characterization in this book is highly masterful in that you alternate between sympathy, empathy, disgust and other emotions for both protagonists. This swirl of feelings and the soul of the novel is entirely retained by Ginny Tapley Takemori’s beautiful translation. So effectively that it left me unsettled even as I turned the last page.
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I received this book as an advance copy from NetGalley.

This book is about a woman who is potentially a psychopath who finds that she is best able to imitate humanity by aligning her entire life with the convenience store she works in. This could have been a look at Japanese culture, psychopathy, what repetitive jobs do to people but instead it was an afterthought of a book that merely brushes at these topics without actually doing the exploration that books are supposed to do. I gave it 2 stars because it was a quick read and I got through it but I consider this book to be a load of waster potential.
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Daily life in Japan has never seemed stranger than in the compelling English-language debut from Sayaka Murata which draws a portrait of alienation in a society that already seems to exist somewhere just over the border from familiarity. The novel exposes the rather shocking life and interior world of Keiko Fukukura, a girl born without social awareness in a place tightly bound by its rules. Thus the child Keiko enters a world of mystifying norms of conduct. When a teacher shows signs of hysteria one day in class, what could possibly be wrong or unhelpful, she wonders, about calming the woman’s mood by pulling down her skirt and knickers? And, after all, it works.

For all Keiko’s confusion, she gradually comes to understand her oddity and responds by withdrawing from involvement with others, managing to complete a solitary education to university level. And then, miraculously, she finds her niche. An impulse decision sees her applying for part-time work in a convenience store, one of those mini-supermarkets ubiquitous in urban Japan, stocked not only with food but a mass of other daily necessities.

Here, Keiko is drilled in how to greet her customers (‘Irasshaimase! Good morning! accompanied by a compulsory smile), how to stock the shelves with products determined by season, weather and time of day, and how to conduct herself generally. This will be her world for the next eighteen years, ruled by snack food innovations, terms of address, sartorial style, employment conventions, cleanliness standards, and the music of store life – cash registers, customers, footfall.

A model employee, Keiko learns a great deal more from her environment. Observing her peers, she trains herself to mimic the pitch of their voices and emulate their fashion taste, earning approval by buying clothes from the same stores. Functioning well at work, she also holds up the acquaintanceship of a few girlfriends, to whom she lies about her health to explain away her continued lowly work status.

But she can’t explain away to these young women, all busy planning their marriages and families, her lack of a partner. Enter Shiraha, a tall, creepy, unmotivated new employee who joins the store’s work force but is quickly sacked. Meeting again by chance, Keiko and Shiraha begin a conversation about their twin exclusion from norms, which results in a major act of pragmatism: she accepts his offer to cohabit, a sexless bargain in which Keiko gets social acceptability, while freeloading Shiraha gets free board and lodging.

But it doesn’t last. Encouraged by Shiraha to quit the convenience store and search for a better-paid job to support the pair of them, Keiko eventually realizes that the price of seeming ordinary is too high. She doesn’t need Shiraha but she does need a convenience store. Without its music in her head, she has lost her attunement to any kind of life, normal or ab-.

Simultaneously disturbing and enthralling, Murata’s short work, a bestseller in her own country, speaks volumes about society and the role of the outcast. Whether comic or tragic, dreamy or realistic, the parable is leant sharper relief by the very particular conformism and rule-bound expectations of the author’s own culture, where sexless marriages are apparently a norm and the birthrate is dropping like a stone. Read it and become acquainted not only with degrees of separation, but of acceptance of identity, no matter the cost.
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Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata is a free NetGalley ebook (originally published in Japanese during 2016) that I read in mid-June.

Recently, I've been watching a lot of Terrace House, a Japanese reality show on Netflix, where a coed group of 6-8 young people (typically in their twenties) live together. Oftentimes, when they gather around for a group meal and someone arrives late, the table of people asks them if they're hungry, to which that person sometimes chimes in with, "No, I bought something at the convenience store, I'm fine." This makes me fuss a little bit with my American consumer preconceptions to respond out loud, "You're choosing gas station food over a home-cooked meal?" But, this book (even if it's meant to be fiction) portrays Japanese convenience stores in a really positive light - they have a giant array of near-restaurant quality food, the employees are unbelievably courteous, and, during Murata's book, the lead first-person character, Keiko, gains self-discipline and an outgoing attitude after working there for eighteen years.  She relies on her store as a refuge and to maintain a normal livelihood, which is thrown into chaos when she starts a platonic live-in relationship with Vietnamese former coworker, Shiraha, who has a fairly negative, slacker attitude.  She chooses to resign from her beloved store at Shiraha's urging, but, eventually, she realizes her true purpose.
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It took me a while to figure out where the author was going with this book. In the end, I really enjoyed the way this novel challenged preconceived notions about how individuals fit into a society. This is really a meditation on the meaning of work and how we tend to mindlessly let others define ourselves.
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Title:   Convenience Store Woman
Author:   Sayaka Murata
Genre:   Fiction
Rating:   3 out of 5

Growing up, Keiko was a strange child. She didn’t react like everyone else—two students fighting, and everyone wants them to stop? Bashing one of them in the head is the solution, right?—and she never understands why her reactions are so wrong. So she learned to mimic everyone around her, creating a nice, normal persona with nice, normal reactions.

For 18 years now, she’s worked part-time at a convenience store. She’s never had a boyfriend. She has only a few friends—who don’t know she’s playing a part. Her family doesn’t understand her. But the routine of the convenience store gives her structure, and the employee handbook gives her rules to follow—she knows the part she must play to look like everyone else.

When she meets a fellow convenience store worker who also doesn’t seem to know how to react, she decides to take action to make everyone finally believe she’s normal once and for all. But will change be for the better?

I’ve been fascinated with Japanese culture since the first time I read Shogun. That’s why I picked this up. However, this book ended up being pretty meh for me. I like feeling a connection with the characters, and I just didn’t get a sense of connection at all. I felt sorry for Keiko, but she felt so distant that I couldn’t really care. (Part of this may be due to the novel being a translation, part to the fact that Keiko may be on the spectrum, so she just isn’t easy to relate to.)

Sayaka Murata is an award-winning Japanese writer. Convenience Store Woman is her newest translated work.

(Galley provided by Grove in exchange for an honest review.)
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Social conformity? Keiko Furukura, the 36-year old convenience store worker is oblivious to what is expected of her in this brilliant English language debut. Comparisons of Japan's 'Eleanor Oliphant' will naturally arise, however Convenience Store Woman is different in presenting the story of a woman who is comfortable in her own skin, no previous past trauma to account for her behaviour or reasoning behind any oddities. She is simply herself and Murata writes this character with such understated simplicity that the reader is wholly absorbed and accepts Keiko for who she is from the very first page. 

Over the 18-years that Keiko has worked in the Tokyo store, she has become so attuned to the daily activities of Hiiromachi Station Smile Mart that she repeats store manual-approved phrases in her head, at home, eating dinner, even in the middle of the night when she is unable to sleep. As store managers come and ago,  and friends get married and have babies, Keiko recognises that society expects her to progress in her life as well. Why it's so important to them, she has no idea why. When Shiraha, a down and out, begins working at the store, his presence is a catalyst for Keiko. Deciding what she must give up in order to appease to people's confined expectations of her, Murata's commentary on the inflexible social roles women - most specifically - are expected to fill is sharp and unabashed.

Brilliant read!
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Modern fiction is teeming with characters who don't fit comfortably into the world they inhabit. I grew up enthralled by self-absorbed male outsiders like Holden Caulfield in the beats. But over the years, I've come to find greater depth and variation in stories about women the world routinely ignores, be it the wry spinsters and Barbara Pym's fiction or the poor, defiantly unconventional Sula who gives her name to Toni Morrison's great early novel. You can add to this list the heroines of two first-rate new novels, one from Denmark, the other from Japan, by literary stars in their home countries. Although different in style, both books are brief and often hilarious. And because they're tinted with autobiography, both are exceedingly smart about single women past the first flush of youth.

"Mirror, Shoulder, Signal" is the latest novel by the Danish writer Dorthe Nors, who possesses a rare gift. She treats heavy, dark matters with a very light touch. Her heroine is Sonja, who grew up in the Jutland boondocks but moved to Copenhagen in search of a grander life. Now in her 40s, she's alone. Her boyfriend has dumped her. She suffers from vertigo. And she spends her life translating gory crime novels that everyone but her seems to love.

Fearing that she's becoming a solitary weirdo, she decides to enroll in a local driving school, where - metaphor alert - she has trouble shifting gears for herself. At first, Sonja's story seems like a nifty social comedy. She has amusing scenes with her angry, foul-mouthed female driving teacher, who spouts the lane-changing mantra, mirror, shoulder, signal, and with the new-age massage therapist that she visits after being stressed out by those behind-the-wheel lessons.

But the novel soon deepens, carrying us into Sonja's more stinging emotions. These involve her love of the Jutland countryside and her painful estrangement from her married sister. All the while, Sonja casts a skeptical eye on orderly, prosperous Copenhagen, where, lurking beneath its comforts, one keeps finding dissatisfaction. Unable to shift, the fretful Sonja finds herself caught in a no woman's land, eager to escape loneliness, yet incapable of reaching the people she yearns to reach.

So what, if anything, should she do? That's the question the novel proposes. And one suspects that Nors, a single woman born in Jutland who once translated crime novels, knows just how thorny any answer must be.

A similar form of alienation gets deliciously perverse treatment in "Convenience Store Woman," a massive bestseller that won its author, Sayaka Murata, Japan's biggest literary prize. Its narrator, Keiko, has been written off as a misfit ever since, as a little girl, she found a dead bird in the park and suggested that the family grill it as yakitori. She yearns to know the secret of acting just like everyone else. And at 18, she discovers it when she's mysteriously drawn to a soon-to-open convenience store called the Hiiromachi Station Smile Mart, and she applies for a job.

In Japan, convenience stores are tiny wonderlands and almost the quintessence of the mainstream, equal parts 7-Eleven, McDonald's and Starbucks. Working at Smile Mart, Keiko learns the official rules and rituals of being a good convenience store woman. What to do and how to talk is spelled out for you. She becomes a model employee who mimics the style of her favorite co-workers, and so she works there happily for 18 years. Then the store hires a male employee who's an even bigger misfit than she is, and things start to change.

Now, Murata herself spent years as a convenience store employee. And one pleasure of this book is her detailed portrait of how such a place actually works. Yet the book's true brilliance lies in Murata's way of subverting our expectations.

It's not simply that Keiko finds liberation, even happiness, by becoming a cog in the capitalist machine, an unsettling idea when you think about it. Murata also makes us see how the family members who find her love of the store's rituals strange are themselves trapped within a set of rules - dress this way, don't talk like that, get married and have kids. But unlike her, they - and maybe we - don't know it.

Near the end of "Mirror, Shoulder, Signal," Sonja meets an old woman who talks about how one survives while not fitting into the slot that society has for you. You live with it, she says, and you find your ways. With bracing good humor, Nors and Murata celebrate the quiet heroism of women who accept the cost of being themselves.
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This story of a convenience store woman in Japan is not for everyone. Keiko is a societal anomaly, choosing to remain in the dead end job she's been at since she was a university student. She is also unmarried, without children and has very odd opinions and little to no emotional range. Her life undergoes a shift when she colludes with a workmate on a rather strange deal to fend off the disdain and pity of her friends and family.

I found Keiko to be an interesting character and her musings about what is and isn't normal as well as the mistreatment by society of those it views as "abnormal" are thought-provoking. Still, I was neither particularly touched or impressed by this book. At times, I felt that the language was too sparse, the dialogues unnatural but perhaps it just wasn't for me.

I admire the premise of poking holes are society's standards of "normal" but this was underwhelming for me. If you like quirky books and are open to trying out this novel, I wouldn't discourage you. Still, I wouldn't recommend it to everyone.
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I received a digital ARC of this book from Grove Press on NetGalley. I’m grateful to Grove Press for their generosity and am happy to post this honest review. All opinions are my own.

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. These past two weeks I’d been asked fourteen times why I wasn’t married. And twelve times why I was still working part-time. So for now I’d decide what to eliminate from my life according to what I was asked about most often I thought. Deep down I wanted some kind of change. Any change, whether good or bad, would be better than the state of impasse I was in now.

Keiko Furukura has been working at the same convenience store since she was eighteen. While this was fine when she was just starting out, she’s thirty-six now, unmarried and childless. Keiko is content among the contents in the aisles of her store; however, her family and friends are worried, and their worry is starting to upset the careful order of Keiko’s days. To assuage everyone’s worries and restore her own equilibrium, Keiko resolves to make the changes that will lesson their scrutiny and return her to her quiet life—except that along the way, Keiko discovers that the life she wants and the life others want for her may not be reconcilable.

As you can guess from the title, much of the action takes place in a Tokyo convenience store where Keiko has spent over half her life as a part-time employee. Though translated, the book is easy to read; the only nuance necessary for an American audience to really appreciate the story is to understand the place of convenience stores in Japanese culture. A Japanese convenience store is not simply a 7/11 offering old hot dogs and questionable coffee. Japanese konbini are safe, brightly-lit, spaces that also sell fresh food you would actually want to eat. Japanese culture in general highly values excellent customer service; accordingly, konbini employee behavior is pretty tightly prescribed. This blog includes pictures of a poster instructing konbini employees on how to appear and interact with customers. This one has an excellent summary on things that set konbini apart from their American cousins.

Character Study
With that introduction, Convenience Store Woman is a character study of Keiko set largely within the walls of her konbini. The early parts of the book have flashes of Keiko’s early life—where she finds a dead bird on the playground surrounded by mourning children and responds by taking it to her mother because her father enjoys eating birds (presumably a different kind of bird but I’m not actually sure)—Keiko believes she is contributing something good while her tiny compatriots and their parents find her to be a monster for not mourning the tiny death in the park. Similarly, Keiko ends a fight in first grade by hitting a boy over the head with a shovel—everyone was yelling to stop the fight and this was the most expedient way to do so.

Having learned that her instincts and interpretation of social cues are apparently wired differently from those around her, Keiko turned inward. She is an expert observer and mimic, designing the details of her life—her clothing, her speech patterns, her topics of conversation—around those she sees and hears from her fellow coworkers. Keiko’s life is ordered and neat, she knows what to do and what to expect at any given point in her day-to-day life. Her only moments of discomfort occur when others around her question why she is still working at the konbini and why she has never had a boyfriend.

Though it is not stated anywhere in the book or in any interviews with the author, Keiko’s presentation strongly reminded me of someone on the autism spectrum. She thrives on order and being given clear expectations and instructions for her speech and behavior. She is extremely rational—the moment with the shovel as a child is less an example of how Keiko might be prone to violence (she’s not) and more an example of how she isn’t bound by social convention in coming to the most expedient resolution to the problem everyone identified.

Ultimately, whether she is or isn’t on the spectrum, isn’t the point here—Keiko is who she is, labels or no. Keiko’s different wiring is what makes Convenience Store Woman such a fascinating character study. She is not someone who resists convention for the sake of being different—indeed, she can embrace conventions in speech and dress when to do so makes sense in her life and abhors standing out. That this is decidedly not Keiko is highlighted by the appearance of another character, Shiraha—a character who drove me so nuts I almost stopped reading.

Turns Out Entitled Men Are Everywhere
Shiraha is entitled—simultaneously trying every way to not work while complaining about how we’re all going back to the stone-age and he’s so put upon. We should apparently pay him just to grace us with his presence and bad mood. He resists doing what he’s told and fitting in seemingly for the sake of resisting. He is everything bad in the stereotypical white man, except he’s Japanese in Japan. I suppose it means they’re everywhere.

But seriously, his character speaks in sweeping, offensive paragraphs that nearly turned me off the book. I can see his use as a foil to Keiko and appreciate that a male was used to further a female’s character development but this “depressing Paleolithic nightmare man” is far less charming and fun to read than your usual manic pixie dream girl. His character was designed to be this over the top; I just have an internal limit of misogyny I can read, even when it serves a purpose in a work of fiction. Murata hit it with Shiraha.

While Convenience Store Woman is narrative fiction, very little actually happens (and nothing dramatic). Instead the interactions and events serve to introduce another layer of Keiko to the reader and, in some ways, Keiko to herself. In trying to change her life, Keiko comes to appreciate what it is she can and can’t live with for the sake of others.

This narrative structure has the effect of making Convenience Store Woman a slower read. The mercy here is that the book is remarkably short—it’s 176 pages and I moved through it fast enough on my kindle that the progress bar made me double-check to make sure I’d received a full book and not a sample. This length is just right for the book—because so little happens, much longer would have felt like the book dragged. Instead, I felt like I got to know Keiko just the right amount for both of us and then was able to close the book and move on.

Published: June 12, 2018 by Grove Press (@groveatlantic)
Author: Sayaka Murata (Ginny Tapley Takemori, Translator)
Date read: June 10, 2018
Rating: 3 ½ stars
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Keiko Fururu is very logical and literal and blunt and that makes her interactions with others difficult. Her family thinks something is wrong with her, that she isn't normal. It is to the point that her sister will give her ways to respond to things to fit in better. While at university, Keiko gets a job working at a convenience store. A Japanese convenience store sounds a bit bigger than a 7-Eleven in the US, but not a full sized grocery store. Keiko knows what to do each day and what is expected of her. She doesn't have to rely on her "outsider" awkward social skills but just follows the company dialogue and employee manual. This makes her an exemplary employee and she feels normal. It was interesting to follow along and read how Keiko related to others and situations and I truly enjoyed what I felt was a happy ending.
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Convenience Store Woman tells the story of our quirky, by her culture’s standards, main protagonist. To her being a Convenient Store Woman is who she is. To others, she is not normal and she slowly sees her little bit of social “life” slipping away. I had lots of feelings about this book, some even anger. But to me that’s the point of a book— to feel.
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I went into this story expecting to experience Keiko's views on being a misfit. Don't get me wrong. I love misfits. I have/am a misfit. I respect misfits who retain a sense of themselves and refuse to blend in with al the sheep. I wanted to like Keiko even though a readily discovered she is a misfit in sheep's clothing. She was content to live her life as a convenience store worker and her life outside that was only to ready herself for the next day. She had no hopes, no ambition, no emotion, Like I said, I wanted to like her but when her lack of emotion leads her to think that a knife would be an efficient means of quieting a child then I too must see her not as a misfit but as a deviant. You look at the school shootings, bombings and other such acts and they all seem to have at least one thing in common - a lack of empathy and a detachment of emotion. The author didn't play around with this trait much other than a couple of childhood instances and this thought concerning her sister's child but she did incorporate it into the story and thus I don't see how one can so easily dismiss Keiko as simply quirky. 

Keiko knows she is "uncured" but she doesn't know what is wrong with her. In an attempt to appear cured, she allows a homeless verbally abusive man to live in her home. While I enjoyed her comparisons of this man to a pet, this was one of the few real chuckles the novel allows. I kept waiting and expecting this book to show more, to grow into something sustainable and it never really did.  The end comes full circle with the beginning with no more closure or hope than Keiko started with. 

This wasn't an awful book. I see real intelligence on the author's part. She makes some wonderful statements about the condition of her society. Unfortunately they are mostly hidden in the angry rhetoric spewed by the incredibly dislikable Shiraha. 

This story is a fast read to it's credit. I think in it's current format, anything longer and I would have stopped reading. I realize I  (once again) appear to have read an entirely different book than most people. I just ultimately found Convenience Store Woman to be depressing.
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My Thoughts: The convenience store woman in this book by the same title is Keiko, a 36-year old who has worked in the same convenience store since she was 18. Debut author Sayaka Murata still works part time in a convenience store, so clearly has the gravitas for putting together her first novel. Convenience Store Woman is all Keiko’s story and Keiko is one very, very odd woman. Even as a child Keiko had been a little strange. Her family worried about her, she had no real friends, and Keiko didn’t really know how to act around other children. As she grew older, Keiko learned to mimic the actions of others, eventually going so far as to mimic their speech patterns and copy how other women dressed and carried themselves.

In these ways Keiko got by for a long, long time. She was content with her neatly ordered life. But, by her mid-thirties people were questioning Keiko. Why was she still working in a convenience store? Why wasn’t she married? Had she ever even had a boyfriend? Once again, Keiko felt the need to adapt to fit the expectations of other, but with limited social skills she had few options. Keiko’s solution was almost as odd as Keiko herself, and it was here that Convenience Store Woman went completely off the rails for me.

I’m hesitant to go to a place with a story that the author never did, but throughout this book I kept thinking that surely Keiko must be on the high-functioning end of the Autism spectrum. Her inappropriate responses to others, her mimicking, her compulsively ordered life, and her lack of social skills all pointed in that direction. Had this been played up more, the book would have been a lot more interesting to me. As it was, Convenience Store Woman was a strange little book about a really odd woman with a sad little life. It proved to be just too weird for me! 

Note: I received a copy of this book from Grove Press (via NetGalley) in exchange for my honest thoughts.
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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 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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Darkly comic, subversive and deeply human, this gem of a book is about Keiko Furukura, a Japanese woman in her 30s who is not quite like other people. From a child she has always been “different” and has never viewed the world as others do. However, she is perfectly content in her own way, working in a local convenience store, a place where she feels at home. But should she try to be more like other people, lead a more “normal” life, try to fit on with societal norms? This is a wonderful short book which questions what it means to be normal, what it means to adapt to those around us and what we owe to ourselves to simply be ourselves. It captures brilliantly the atmosphere and daily routine of a convenience store – I could see Keiko’s store so clearly, almost smell it, as if I were actually there. Clever and astute, engaging and moving, this is a deeply sympathetic portrait of a woman at odds with the world but at peace with herself.
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Thank you so much to Netgalley for this ARC.  I have listened to Modern Mrs Darcy talk about this book on her podcast and it sounded very interesting and I was not disappointed. 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. I don't usually read books that were originally in another language but this really worked and is a great book.
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Keiko Furukura has always been different. From her youngest memories of school, it’s been evident that she’s peculiar. Very literal, she solves problems in ways that are strange and sometimes dangerous. Her parents and sisters are at a loss. She’s never quite fit in.

When she gets a job at a convenience store, her family sees it as a sign that she’s finally growing up and becoming more conventional. But eighteen years later, she’s still working at the convenience store, single and a virgin.

Keiko loves the convenience store. From the very beginning, she has thrived in its rigid environment of rules and predictability. The store manual dictates how workers should dress and act, and exactly how the store should be run. She knows precisely what is expected of her in its environment and her life is running smoothly.

But Keiko is aware that those around her have different expectations of her. Her friends are getting married and having children. She’s not interested in relationships, but she understands that others would be more accepting of her if she followed the traditional path. But going down that path throws her ordered life into a tailspin.

I liked Keiko immediately. Although she thinks differently, she is very self-aware and extremely perceptive. Her observations are insightful and witty. I was rooting for her the whole time.

This quirky, quick read had me hooked from the very first. If you’re looking for something a little outside of the ordinary read, then check out Convenience Store Woman.
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