About the Book
Keiko Furukura had always been considered a strange child, and her parents always worried how she would get on in the real world, so when she takes on a job in a convenience store while at university, they are delighted for her. For her part, in the convenience store she finds a predictable world mandated by the store manual, which dictates how the workers should act and what they should say, and she copies her coworkers’ style of dress and speech patterns so that she can play the part of a normal person. However, eighteen years later, at age 36, she is still in the same job, has never had a boyfriend, and has only few friends. She feels comfortable in her life, but is aware that she is not living up to society’s expectations and causing her family to worry about her. When a similarly alienated but cynical and bitter young man comes to work in the store, he will upset Keiko’s contented stasis—but will it be for the better?
Sayaka Murata brilliantly captures the atmosphere of the familiar convenience store that is so much part of life in Japan. With some laugh-out-loud moments prompted by the disconnect between Keiko’s thoughts and those of the people around her, she provides a sharp look at Japanese society and the pressure to conform, as well as penetrating insights into the female mind. Convenience Store Woman is a fresh, charming portrait of an unforgettable heroine that recalls Banana Yoshimoto, Han Kang, and Amélie.
Praise for Convenience Store Woman:
“I think the riskiest kind of novel is the one that tries to rescue us from mundane existence—by taking a closer look at mundane existence . . . In this context, it is easy to say that Murata-san’s novel is a major breakthrough. Convenience Store Woman is not an explosion of candor, but it manages to both be cool to the touch and have depths of warmth in presenting to us a heroine who feels at a remove from the world around her. This is a fine high wire act to walk. One of the finest I have seen in a long time from so young a writer.”—John Freeman, Literary Hub
“This work merely describes the tiny world of a small box—a convenience store . . . yet it packs all the appeal of a [long] novel. In all my ten-plus years on the panel of judges, this is the first time one of the shortlisted works has had me laughing. And somehow that laugh was charged with a profound sense of irony. Bravo Murata-san!”—Amy Yamada
“I was really amazed by Convenience Store Woman and the particular reality it exquisitely portrays . . . [It] minutely translates the sadness, anguish, grief, grumbles, fateful actions etc. of someone who is incapable of uttering the right words, adding layers of details and spinning them into a story . . . I am sincerely delighted that such a novel has come into being.”—Ryu Murakami
“Choosing to give your novel a narrator who is not normal, someone who is aware that there is something strange about herself, is not an easy choice. Flaunting strangeness as a privilege sometimes repels the reader. But Convenience Store Woman skilfully evades this reaction. When the protagonist, a social outcast, is placed within the box of the artificially normalized convenience store, we begin to vividly see the strangeness of the people in the world outside.”—Yoko Ogawa
“This novel made me laugh. It was the first time for me to laugh in this way: it was absurd, comical, cute . . . audacious, and precise. It was overwhelming.”—Hiromi Kawakami
A convenience store is a world of sound. From the tinkle of the door chime to the voices of TV celebrities advertising new products over the in-store cable network, to the calls of the store workers, the beeps of the bar code scanner, the rustle of customers picking up items and placing them in baskets, and the clacking of heels walking around the store. It all blends into the convenience store sound that ceaselessly caresses my eardrums.
I hear the faint rattle of a new plastic bottle rolling into place as a customer takes one out of the refrigerator, and look up instantly. A cold drink is often the last item customers take before coming to the checkout till, and my body responds automatically to the sound. I see a woman holding a bottle of mineral water while perusing the desserts and look back down.
As I arrange the display of newly delivered rice balls, my body picks up information from the multitude of sounds around the store. At this time of day, rice balls, sandwiches, and salads are what sell best. Another part-timer, Sugawara, is over at the other side of the store checking off items with a handheld scanner. I continue laying out the pristine, machine-made food neatly on the shelves of the cold display: in the middle I place two rows of the new flavor, spicy cod roe with cream cheese, alongside two rows of the store’s best-selling flavor, tuna mayonnaise, and then I line the less popular dry bonito shavings in soy sauce flavor next to those. Speed is of the essence, and I barely use my head as the rules ingrained in me issue instructions directly to my body.
Named a Most Anticipated Book of 2018 by Electric Literature