Grove Press
Grove Press
Grove Press


by Sayaka Murata Translated from Japanese by Ginny Tapley Takemori

From the beloved author of cult sensation Convenience Store Woman, which has now sold more than a million copies worldwide, comes a spellbinding and otherworldly novel about a young girl who believes she is an alien

  • Imprint Grove Paperback
  • Page Count 256
  • Publication Date September 21, 2021
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-5701-0
  • Dimensions 5.5" x 8.25"
  • US List Price $17.00
  • Imprint Grove Hardcover
  • Page Count 256
  • Publication Date October 06, 2020
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-5700-3
  • Dimensions 5.5" x 8.25"
  • US List Price $26.00
  • Imprint Grove Paperback
  • Publication Date October 06, 2020
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-5702-7
  • US List Price $26.00

As a child, Natsuki doesn’t fit into her family. Her parents favor her sister, and her best friend is a plush toy hedgehog named Piyyut who has explained to her that he has come from the planet Popinpobopia on a special quest to help her save the Earth. Each summer, Natsuki counts down the days until her family drives into the mountains of Nagano to visit her grandparents in their wooden house in the forest, a place that couldn’t be more different from her grey commuter town. One summer, her cousin Yuu confides to Natsuki that he is an extraterrestrial and that every night he searches the sky for the spaceship that might take him back to his home planet. Natsuki wonders if she might be an alien too. Back in her city home, Natsuki is scolded or ignored and even preyed upon by a young teacher at her cram school. As she grows up in a hostile, violent world, she consoles herself with memories of her time with Yuu and discovers a surprisingly potent inner power. Natsuki seems forced to fit into a society she deems a “baby factory” but even as a married woman she wonders if there is more to this world than the mundane reality everyone else seems to accept. The answers are out there, and Natsuki has the power to find them.

Dreamlike, sometimes shocking, and always strange and wonderful, Earthlings asks what it means to be happy in a stifling world, and cements Sayaka Murata’s status as a master chronicler of the outsider experience and our own uncanny universe.

Praise for Earthlings:

A New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice
Named a Best Book of the Year by the New York TimesTime, and Literary Hub
Named a Most Anticipated Book by the New York Times, TIME, USA Today, Entertainment Weekly, the Guardian, Vulture, WiredLiterary Hub, Bustle, PopSugar, and Refinery29

“To Sayaka Murata, nonconformity is a slippery slope . . . Reminiscent of certain excellent folk tales, expressionless prose is Murata’s trademark . . . In Earthlings, being an alien is a simple proxy for being alienated. The characters define themselves not by a specific notion of what they are—other—but by a general idea of what they are not: humans/breeders . . . The strength of [Murata’s] voice lies in the faux-naïf lens through which she filters her dark view of humankind: We earthlings are sad, truncated bots, shuffling through the world in a dream of confusion.”—Lydia Millet, New York Times Book Review

“What does it mean to feel at home in the world? Natskui, the protagonist of this startling novel, doesn’t know: from a young age, she’s convinced that she has been contacted by aliens who will take her away from a middle-class Japanese life marked by cruelty . . . Murata takes a childlike idea and holds onto it with imaginative fervor, brilliantly exposing the callousness and arbitrariness of convention.”—New Yorker

“Shocking, hilarious, and hugely, darkly entertaining. Murata has crafted an unforgettable, original hybrid of absurd fantasy and stark realism.”—Financial Times

“A strange and dreamlike story of a young girl who comes to believe she’s an alien.”—USA Today

“As in Convenience Store Woman, Murata displays her gift for scrambling notions of utopia and dystopia to propulsive effect — only this time, her characters are convinced that they’re rebelling, not conforming . . . Murata manages what her characters cannot: She transcends society’s core values, to dizzying effect. As Earthlings swerves into violent, transgressive, fantastical territory, Murata—ever the good scientist—keeps us in thrall by never putting her thumb on the scale. Her matter-of-fact rendering of wild events is as disorienting as it is intriguing.”—Stephanie Hayes, Atlantic

“If you’re in the mood for weird, Sayaka Murata is always a reliable place to turn . . . [Earthlings] centers on Natsuki, a character whose story begins in childhood with her cousin in the mountains and spirals ever more darkly (and bizarrely) into adulthood and its many strange reckonings. This is a story that’s best not to spoil, but it will get into your head.”—Seattle Times

“A frequently disturbing but pacy read, with its own off-key humor.”—Guardian

“Horrifyingly bizarre and wildly transcendent . . . A powerfully good read.”—Yvonne C. Garrett, Brooklyn Rail

“A methodical descent into a very special, almost rational kind of madness . . . About far more than the endless trauma of fitting in. It’s a story about the mental gymnastics that lead us to strange and unearthly places in order to survive . . . Horror is often a mirror for things we’d rather not see, and sci-fi often a vehicle to places we’d rather be. Murata marries elements of both into one meticulous journey to the heart of human psychology.”—Alexis Ong, Tor.com

“It’s the book’s visceral, grim savagery, and those final shocking pages, that makes this such a vital, powerful novel . . . Earthlings is the sort of challenging, confronting fiction that wakes you up with a jolt and leaves a lasting impression.”—Ian Mond, Locus

“A sharp interrogation of the way our brains and bodies react to trauma and to feeling ‘other’ that forces anyone to question what their place is, what’s truly necessary to exist in society, and what ‘normal’ truly means . . . Murata’s novels are a valuable, heightened exploration of the intense discomfort that people, autistic or not, who are just a little outside of society can feel when they try to force themselves to fit in. Murata’s message is: stop trying.”—Marianne Eloise, i-D

“Intimate, deadpan, and unflinchingly unhinged . . . Eleven-year-old protagonist Natsuki navigates through a brutal and lonely childhood to arrive in an adulthood spent raging against the system and descending into what might be madness, all to the (distinctly off-) beat of Murata’s exceptionally fun prose . . . Amid all the hedgehog and alien talk is a novel that asks how happiness and freedom can be possible inside a stiflingly anxious world, and its answers, while grotesque, are worth reading.”—Wired

“A curious novel—quaint and quirky at the start, then increasingly bizarre and frightening right up until its horrific and unbelievable end. With sparse language and sharp social commentary, masterfully translated by Ginny Tapley Takemori, Sayaka Murata skewers the trappings of modern life and introduces readers to an innocent pushed to the very edge of sanity . . . Heartrending, resonant, and unforgettable.”—Bookreporter

“Murata’s unsettling, madcap 11th novel (after Convenience Store Woman) chronicles the nightmarish discontent of one girl amid the deadening conformity of modern Japanese society . . . The author’s flat, deadpan prose makes the child Natsuki’s narration strangely and instantly believable and later serves to reflect her relationship to Japan’s societal anxiety. This eye-opening, grotesque outing isn’t to be missed.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“An indelible portrait of an imaginative young woman learning to survive. Original in conception and astute in its social critique; highly recommended.”—Library Journal (starred review)

“Societally defiant, shockingly disconnected, disturbingly satisfying . . . Murata again confronts and devastates so-called ‘normal,’ ‘proper’ behavior to create an unflinching exposé of society.”—Terry Hong, Booklist 

Earthlings continues to explore life on the fringes in Japan through an even darker and weirder lens, one that will take most readers on a wild ride far beyond the outermost limit of their comfort zones . . . The story’s grotesque joy depends on the surprise at just how perverse things can get . . . Enthusiastically challenges most of our most deeply held societal taboos . . . A mind- and soul-expanding countercultural battle cry that is utterly one of a kind.”—BookPage

“A shocking allegory about the consequences of nonconformity . . . Perfect for fans of Chuck Palahniuk and Ottessa Moshfegh, this worthy follow-up to Murata’s acclaimed Convenience Store Woman will stay with readers long after the story is over.”—Shelf Awareness 

Earthlings takes the mood of colorful disquiet she honed in Convenience Store Woman and pushes it further out. The boy and a girl at the heart of her latest believe they have landed on earth from outer space. Raised by separate families, treated badly, they tack toward each other in this immensely charming, strange and heart-stomping tale. The imagination of this writer grows and grows like outer space. Earthlings should be one of the main fictional events of 2020.”—John Freeman, Literary Hub

“I loved this book! It easily converted me to being an alien. A radical, hilarious, heartbreaking look at the crap we have all internalized in order to fit in and survive.”—Elif Batuman, author of The Idiot

“A deeply engrossing and devastating read, one that follows the narrator through childhood and into adulthood. Even as an adult, the narrative voice is full of the whimsy. The book is a page-turner with a sophisticated undercurrent questioning the generally accepted mundanity of human existence. Murata’s protagonist, consciously defying expectations to settle down and have children, becoming what she calls a ‘baby factory,’ serves as a feminist heroine, one who isn’t afraid to stand apart from the crowd.”—Meghana Kandlur, The Seminary Co-op (Chicago)

“When traveling in Japan, particularly with my Japanese family, I have felt as if trying to assert myself there was like trying to stand up in a raging river. It doesn’t care what you think. You are just carried along with it (and collateral damage is to be expected). But then, it’s not just Japanese culture, is it? We just notice it more when it’s not our home culture or if we’re an outsider to that river of norms. Murata brings all of that not-so-subtle pressure and our submerged feelings about it into our consciousness. I laughed, I was shocked, and I was of course carried away by this wonderful, thought provoking and wild book.”—Karen Maeda Allman, Elliott Bay Book Company (Seattle)

“From a young age, Natsuki has viewed the human inhabitants of Earth as factory machines—once they grow up, they’re all expected to do their part by reproducing to continue the endless cycle. She isn’t an Earthling, according to Piyyut, the sentient toy hedgehog sent to her from their home planet of Popinpobopia to watch over her. Natsuki’s childhood is a harsh one, shaped by neglect and abuse. As an adult, she and her husband cannot escape scrutiny from not conforming to Factory living. Earthlings conveys a wonderfully stark perspective on society’s expectations of what people are ‘supposed’ to do and be, while factoring in a more literal sense of alienation that makes this novel stand apart from the rest.”—Andrew King, University Book Store (Seattle)

“I inhaled this book in a matter of hours. In Convenience Store Woman, Murata introduced us to characters living on the fringe of society; with Earthlings, she’s moved onto characters who are outside of society altogether. Eleven-year-old Natsuki firmly believes her cousin is an alien. Which is fine, because she is, too, a fact that’s revealed to her by the toy hedgehog she bought at a supermarket. As an adult, Natsuki’s beliefs are tested as her family and friends insist she should hurry up and have children (or, as Natsuki puts it, give her womb over to the ‘baby factory’) like all good humans do. In turns moving and disturbing, Earthlings is unlike anything you’ve ever read.”—Devon Dunn, Book Culture (New York)

“From the author of 2018’s comic gem about a Japanese misfit, Convenience Store Woman, a new novel featuring a young woman who is convinced she is an alien.”—Guardian

“This is one that should be on everyone’s wish list.”Japan Times

“In 2020, we finally get our hands on Sayaka Murata’s newest novel . . . A new statement by Murata that finding your own freedom is a struggle against family and society which takes sacrifice.”Books and Bao

Praise for Convenience Store Woman:

“Keiko, a defiantly oddball 36-year-old woman, has worked in a dead-end job as a convenience store cashier in Tokyo for half her life. She lives alone and has never been in a romantic relationship, or even had sex. And she is perfectly happy with all of it . . . Written in plain-spoken prose, the slim volume focuses on a character who in many ways personifies a demographic panic in Japan.”—Motoko Rich, New York Times (profile)

“A small, elegant and deadpan novel . . . Casts a fluorescent spell . . . A thrifty and offbeat exploration of what we must each leave behind to participate in the world.”—Dwight Garner, New York Times

“Alienation gets deliciously perverse treatment in Convenience Store Woman . . . The book’s true brilliance lies in Murata’s way of subverting our expectations . . . With bracing good humor . . . Murata celebrate[s] the quiet heroism of women who accept the cost of being themselves.”—John Powers, NPR’s Fresh Air

“The novel borrows from Gothic romance, in its pairing of the human and the alluringly, dangerously not. It is a love story, in other words, about a misfit and a store . . . Keiko’s self-renunciations reveal the book to be a kind of grim post-capitalist reverie: she is an anti-Bartleby, abandoning any shred of identity outside of her work . . . Tranquil—dreamy, even—rooting for its employee-store romance from the bottom of its synthetic heart.”—Katy Waldman, New Yorker

“An exhilaratingly weird and funny Japanese novel about a long-term convenience store employee. Unsettling and totally unpredictable—my copy is now heavily underlined.”—Sally Rooney, Guardian

“As intoxicating as a sake mojito . . . A literary prize-winner that’s also a page-turner.”—John Powers, Vogue

“It’s the novel’s cumulative, idiosyncratic poetry that lingers, attaining a weird, fluorescent kind of beauty all of its own.”—Julie Myerson, Guardian

“Brilliant, witty, and sweet in ways that recall Amélie and Shopgirl . . . Murata’s sparkly writing and knack for odd, beautiful details are totally her own.”Vogue, “13 Books to Thrill, Entertain, and Sustain You This Summer”

“A quiet masterpiece . . . Seldom has a narrator been so true to a lack of self, and so triumphantly other.”—David Wright, Seattle Times

“A spare, quietly brilliant novel . . . Like being lulled into a soft calm.”—Arianna Rebolini, BuzzFeed

“This magical little book performs this neat accordion track in sentences so clean and crisp it’s like they were laminated and placed before you, one at a time, in a well-windex’d cooler . . . The 7-11 Madame Bovary.”—John Freeman, Literary Hub

“A personal favorite . . . The prose is as crisp as is the aesthetic of [Japan]”—Lauren Christensen, CBS This Morning

“Knock-you-off-your-feet good, sucking you wholesale into the strange brain of its narrator . . . Like being beamed down onto a foreign planet, which turns out to be your own . . . May we buy out bookstores’ stocks of Convenience Store Woman, and yell Sayaka Murata’s name from the rooftops.”—Alison Tate Lewis, Electric Literature

“A novel that proves sylphlike; spare in its contents, with a masterfully deceptive comic veneer that keeps the reader turning the page.”Zyzzyva

“Quirky, memorable.”Times (UK)

“Engaging . . . A sure-fire hit of the summer.”Irish Times

“Smart and sly . . . Moving, funny, and unsettling.”Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Dazzling.”Booklist (starred review)

“A unique and unexpectedly revealing English language debut.”Kirkus Reviews

“A gem of a book. Quirky, deadpan, poignant, and quietly profound, it is a gift to anyone who has ever felt at odds with the world—and if we were truly being honest, I suspect that would be most of us.”—Ruth Ozeki, author of A Tale for the Time Being

“What a weird and wonderful and deeply satisfying book this is. Sayaka Murata is an utterly unique and revolutionary voice. I tore through Convenience Store Woman with great delight.”—Jami Attenberg, New York Times bestselling author of The Middlesteins and All Grown Up

“A darkly comic, deeply unsettling examination of contemporary life, of alienation, of capitalism, of identity, of conformity. We’ve all been to this convenience store, whether it’s in Japan or somewhere else.”—Viet Thanh Nguyen, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Sympathizer

“This is a story about what’s normal and not, a drama played on a stage so violently plain it becomes as vivid and surprising as an alien planet. I loved Convenience Store Woman: its brevity, its details, its opinions about life.”—Robin Sloan, author of Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore

“I picked up this novel on a trip to Japan and couldn’t put it down. A haunting, dark, and often hilarious take on society’s expectations of the single woman. As an extra bonus, it totally transformed my experience of going to convenience stores in Tokyo.”—Elif Batuman, author of The Idiot

Convenience Store Woman is a mighty fine book, completely charming. Sayaka Murata is a wonderful writer.”—Rabih Alameddine, author of An Unnecessary Woman

“Instructions: Open book. Consume contents. Feel charmed, disturbed, and weirdly in love. Do not discard.”—Jade Chang, author of The Wangs Vs. the World

“Murata creates an original and surreal world in the most unlikely places. Furukura, the convenience store woman, is a strange, complex, gripping protagonist who inadvertently propels her own story forth through a series of subtle actions yet it is through these actions and also the spareness of the author’s prose that we see what a master Murata truly is. This book is not only readable, it is fun, thought provoking and at times outrageous and outrageously funny. It is sure to be a standout of the year.”—Weike Wang, author of Chemistry

“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, author of The Nakano Thrift Shop