A convenience store is a retail store generally opened for long hours containing grocery and household supplies. Keiko Furukura is a 36-year-old working in Hiromachi Station Smile Mart. She is indifferent and sometimes behaves oddly in the presence of humans. She likes being a convenience store woman. She has been working at this dead-end job since she was 18 years old. Neither does she have any ambitious career aspirations nor she feels familiar with the notion of marriage. Her family doesn’t approve of her and find her psychopathic. The story unfolds when she meets Shihara.
Keiko proposes an alternate status quo unintentionally
I was intrigued by Keiko till the end. She didn’t leave me easily. I couldn’t relate to her at all but I kept reading. I wanted to read more about her.
Keiko handles things not in a preferred manner but in her own strange way. She remains a misfit as she fails to adhere to the status quo by neither wanting to get married nor having any aspirations career-wise. She doesn’t understand how to behave around normal people yet she makes multiple attempts to fit into the same ‘social circle’ by imitating others.
Not that she had the understanding of seeking different things in life but she didn’t quite feel the need to be anything other than a convenience store woman. Being at the convenience store gives her an identity and she has never known how to become anyone else
The convenience store is everything for Keiko
Keiko’s obsession to the store is beyond any worldly description. She finds joy in every little sound she hears in the store. She gets up in the morning, eats healthy, takes care of herself in every possible manner only to be at the convenience store. By being a convenience store woman she has a blueprint for life which she diligently follows. As per the review at NewYorker.com, it is a love story between a misfit and the convenience store.
“I wished I was back in the convenience store where I was valued as a working member of staff and things weren’t as complicated as this. Once we donned our uniforms, we were all equals regardless of gender, age, or nationality— all simply store workers.” – Sayaka MurataTweet
Sayaka Murata’s expression is very refreshing
The entire narrative is very monotonic in expression. Even Keiko’s thoughts seems robotic let alone her day to day life. You would feel bad for her for not having the same sense of feeling like ordinary people to the extent that you might start considering her autistic which we never know if she is.
This is a short, quirky, and idiosyncratic story with its highs and lows. It is a page-turner, intriguing read and you would probably read in one go. You would ask yourselves many whys before you would start seeing things the way the author wants us to see.
I felt some plots could have been explored but I guess the mystery is what Murata wanted to create which she did quite well. I found the book flat in the middle and it got very confusing to make sense. But it picked up pace very soon towards the end.
I’m not saying it is highly recommend. But it is a must-read if you enjoy Japanese fiction. Though I feel it is a bit hyped. But if you pick it up you would definitely like it in bits and pieces.
If you consider getting a copy after reading this post, please buy it from Amazon.