Wednesday, January 04, 2023

Convenience Store Woman Review

Convenience Store Woman

Convenience Store Woman

by Sayaka Murata

Grove Press (2018)

ISBN: 978-0-8021-2825-6
Hardback, 163 pp

Convenience Store Woman Review.

Keiko is a 36-year-old convenience store worker who has worked part-time for exactly half of her life at a Smile Mart Convenience Store. She's never had a boyfriend, or seemingly any kind of male relationship. She lives in an old, run-down apartment which is all she can afford. She enjoys what she does, and gets her self-worth from her job - which she is quite good at. She is completely focused on her job, and looks at life through the lens of being a convenience store worker.

Although she is happy with her life, nobody else seems to be. Her few friends outside of work consider her to be less than an adult and not normal since she has neither married nor launched her career. They are getting married and having children, and their life experiences no longer match Keiko's. Her sister wonders what's wrong with Keiko.

Trying to pigeon-hole her "problem," if she indeed has one, is quite difficult for the reader, who might surmise she has a low IQ or is unmotivated, socially inept or just a bit of a weirdo. A few times she is portrayed as being little more than a psychopath. The author seems to want to be vague about her "problem."

For some, it might look like she is nothing more than Toto-Chan on steroids.

It turns out that perhaps her biggest problem is what others think of her. The author is a bit heavy handed about this point, going overboard a time or two and heading towards unrealistic dialogue. Keiko is finally presented with, and jumps at, a chance to be "normal." Is this really what is best for her, and can she cope and not be taken advantage of?

Pretty much all books get good and bad reviews. Reviews of this book probably vary more widely than most. If you understand Japanese literature well, or maybe don't fit in with society for whatever reason, you probably have a better chance of grasping and appreciating this book.

Some call it insightful, humorous, wonderful and a concise insight into modern society. Others react with, "What the heck did I just read? That was a real snoozer."

Regardless of what some readers might think of the book, the people who give out the Akutagawa Award, Japan's most prestigious literary award, were impressed. Convenience Store Woman won the Akutagawa Award in 2016.

Life ceremony by Sayaka Murata.

Review by Marshall Hughes.

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