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Book review: Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata

This short novel is centred around a 36-year-old woman, Keiko, whose world view is ‘different’ from most people. She has worked in a convenience store for 18 years and thrives off the monotony of it all. However, the people around her are often confused by her contentment at staying in the same job, having no interest in sex or relationships and repeating her same routine daily.

When I first started reading this story, I wasn’t quite sure where it was going but as it progresses you can see that Murata is holding up a mirror to society, and this book is an exploration of how social pressure dictates our experiences. Although Keiko is happy being alone, without a partner and returning to the same job day after day, with no hope of progression, it makes everyone from her sister to her friends uncomfortable. People constantly question her life choices and are only pacified when she recites a pre-meditated response referring to her health.

It’s clear from the beginning that Keiko’s thinking is different from others. As a child she hits her classmate with a spade over the head to end a fight and this is mirrored when, as an adult, she wonders if anyone has ever thought of prodding her sister’s baby with a small knife to stop it from crying. While the insight in Keiko’s thoughts are often dark, they can be comic and charmingly naive.

To combat being an outsider, Keiko picks up on things she sees others doing such as dressing similarly or speaking the same way, which she believes helps people to believe they ‘fit in.’ Her blunt observations of how ‘normal’ people behave, often makes them look desperate to live their lives as society dictates. About three quarters of the way through the book Keiko starts doing things to pretend to others that she is just like them and when people believe she is living with a man, they are so overjoyed and cannot stop asking questions, despite the fact they know next to nothing about this man. It is simply just enough that she is finally adhering to the unwritten rules society has laid out.

Overall, this book is quirky, bizarre at times and darkly comic but all in all it made me laugh because it can be so accurate about the mob-mentality of society. For many people success is often judged on people’s jobs, relationship status and financial stability. In reality, we know that those things do not bring happiness alone and this book brings exactly that to light.

Read this if: You want something quick and easy to read.

Favourite bit: The ending, but I won’t give that away.

Any parts I didn’t like? I did wonder where it was all going a lot of times, but just enjoyed it for what it was in the end.

Stars out of 5: 3.5 stars

Brown girl Kim
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