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Category: Literary fiction
Format: Paperback, borrowed from library
Content Warnings: References to stalking
Keiko Furukura has worked in the same convenience store for eighteen years. She feels at home in the store with its comforting daily rhythms, but those around her are pushing her to move on in her career, get married, have children. Tired of their interference, Keiko decides, at last, to give “normality” a shot…with disastrous consequences.
First Page Impressions
Convenience Store Woman was chosen by my book club this month because, after reading some pretty dark books recently, we felt like something lighter. Within the first few pages, I felt it up to the task – although the book doesn’t have an obviously gripping plot (or even any chapter divisions) it was a speedy and undemanding read.
I also embraced spending time in the mind of such a quirky narrator – it gave me some Eleanor Oliphant-esque vibes!
Final Page Reflections
The beginning of Convenience Store Woman may have reminded me of Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman, but I soon discovered that Keiko is not as likeable a character as Eleanor. I couldn’t connect with her emotionally, while her failure to develop any connections with others throughout the story made the ending feel flat.
However, I appreciated the author’s wider message about intolerance towards difference in society. It made me interrogate exactly why I wasn’t drawn to her character – did Murata intend to make readers complicit in the process of shunning outliers?
“normality—however messy—is far more comprehensible”
Diversity and Representation
I’m trying to read more translated literature this year, and Convenience Store Woman is translated from the Japanese. Although I may have missed some of the finer points of the satire because I’m not overly familiar with this culture, I’m certainly intrigued and would like to read more Japanese fiction.
- Social expectations
- Tolerance and intolerance
Beyond the Book
My favourite element of the story was how Murata highlights society’s intolerance towards difference. The protagonist, Keiko, is rejected for not fitting the usual framework of education, career, marriage, children, etc.
I like to think we’re moving on from this fixation in the modern world, but then a few days ago my Nan told me out of the blue that I ‘need to get a boyfriend soon’!?! Are we really seeing the beginnings of change or do these traditional beliefs remain entrenched?
- How far do you think progress is important to our sense of wellbeing? Is Keiko’s dead-end job at a convenience store a problem if she is happy?
- One of the quotes on the front cover of Convenience Store Woman dubbed the book ‘hilarious’, which distorted my expectations. It was certainly quirky, but not laugh-out-loud funny. Are you for or against front cover quotes?
“The normal world has no room for exceptions and always quietly eliminates foreign objects.”
Read if: You are intrigued by an offbeat celebration of non-conformity.
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Have you read Convenience Store Woman? What did you think? Let me know in the comments – I would love to hear from you!