- Format Read – Hardback
- How did I get this book – Library Loan
- Date Read – 23rd July 2019 (Read in a couple of hours)
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 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?
Every so often you read a book that is not only completely different to what you normally read, but also completely different to your expectations. Convenience Store Woman is (for me at least) one of those books. Translated from Japanese, it focuses very strongly on Japanese society, however, the areas that it focuses on almost transcend nationality. The “problems” our convenience store woman faces seem to be the same the world over. From personal experience, not too long after getting married my wife and I were constantly asked “when are you going to have a baby”, now we have a daughter and it is constantly “when are you going to have another baby”. This is not all, society expects us to change. We shouldn’t stay in the same job, or the same position.
This is where we pick up with Keiko. She is a convenience store woman, and a very happy one at that. She does not fit in with society. She is quirky, and all she is looking for is her “manual” on how to be normal. So she copies how people act, picking up on their quirks and their style. As the staff that work with her change so does she.
This is a delightfully funny book that has a wonderful message to tell. I picked it up on an evening where I wasn’t feeling so well but it hooked me entirely – ideas of finishing up a TV show binge were completely put on hold – and I read it in one go – which is another rarity for me.
Convenince Store Woman is published by Grove Press and is widely available.