Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata (“Maybe I’m working because I want to be a useful tool.”)

Keiko Furukura wasn’t “born a convenience store woman,” as she carefully explains in the beginning. She was once a child.

But, she was a very different child from the others. When finding a dead bird on the playground around which everyone is crying, she wants to take it home for dinner. When two boys are fighting, and another child asks how it can be stopped, Keiko bashes one of the fighting boys over the head with a spade.

I see her as practical. Odd. And, I commiserate immediately. (There was a time in my childhood when the kids in our neighborhood were discussing how much they disliked John K.; when he knocked on the door of the playhouse we were in, I punched him in the stomach. Suddenly, everyone was made at me.)

Keiko is completely happy being a convenience store worker. She has found a mask, of sorts, that fits. She is scrupulous in her efforts, highly praised because of the efficiency and dedication she gives to her job. But, it isn’t until she invites a strange, and selfish, man, Shiraha, (who has been fired from the convenience store) home to live with her that she suddenly finds herself accepted by her fellow employees. They are suddenly eager to invite her out for a drink with them.

I’d never known before now, but apparently they all went out socializing together now and then.

Her sister, without even knowing this man, says how happy she is for Keiko to have found someone who understands her. The assumption is that living within accepted norms makes one accepted by society.

She (Keiko’s sister) is far happier thinking her sister is normal, even if she has a lot of problems, than she is having an abnormal sister for whom everything is fine. For her, normality–however messy–is far more comprehensible.

I loved this book, for its quiet explanation of the ways our crazy society is prone to think, but best of all for the way that Keiko remains herself. Perfect as she always was, in her very own way.

20 thoughts on “Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata (“Maybe I’m working because I want to be a useful tool.”)”

    1. It is really good. Don’t be deceived by its brevity; I can imagine having a lot to talk about with someone who’s read it, or within a book club meeting. I will pondering it a long time, because it’s quirky, but not so out there it becomes irrelevant. I hope you like it as much as I did.

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  1. Convenience stores in Japan are interesting places, different from the ones in America. I loved going to them when we visited Japan. This sounds like a fascinating and charming book.

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  2. Yours is not the first glowing review I’ve read for this book, so I need to get a copy and see what all the fuss is about! And I’m still trying to imagine you punching someone in the stomach!! 🙂

    I hope you have a fabulous trip to Japan! We’ve been enjoying our Southwest tour in our RV. Today we leave Texas and head back to New Mexico for a few days.

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    1. It was a rather incongruous thing for me to do, and believe me, I’ve never done it again! If you do pick this up, which I hope you do, be prepared for quirky-but-meaningful. I’ll be thinking about this unusual, and special, character for a long time. I’d love to talk about it with you should you read it.

      Your travels are a marvel; so fun to see from Illinois! I am enjoying autumn fully for the first time since I was a child. All the colors, all the crisp air, it’s glorious. xo

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  3. This sounds like a story based on one of our favorite philosophies ie. when have the masses ever been right? with your review I can already see how i have wanted those square pegs to round out just so I feel better. perhaps I should hurry to read this too. and for a couple of related thoughts: Knowing you I can believe how that incident in the playhouse stayed to shape you. Please let me know about the Japanese convenience stores. i have never forgotten an article I read about the different items in the California dollar stores. Fun stuff!!

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    1. Conforming to the masses is the last thing I want to do. Perhaps that is part of the reason I liked this book so much. It was an extremely gentle mockery, actuallly, of how society wants us to fit in to some generally accepted norm. Guess what? I’m not in High School any more! I can be who Christ has made me to be, and that’s such a relief. As for convenience stores, I had never heard that about Californian dollar stores. And, I’ll let you know if a Japanese convenience store is like a 7-11.☺️

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    1. I am excited about the adventures that await us…after the 13 and one half hours of flight. You know my passion for Japanese literature, and this is really a dream fulfilled to be able to go. I hope I won’t bore you all with a few pictures upon my return. xo

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    1. So we’ll said! I think it has more appeal, more ability for many people to relate to, than one would think. Perhaps that accounts for it’s tremendous success. How ironic it is that people are struggling to fit in, and yet so many would just prefer to be the way they are…

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  4. I was wondering about this one. I’m happy you posted about it, because now I see that I need to read it. Of course, it will have to wait until after I read the new Murakami 🙂

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    1. I am absolutely ITCHING for the new Murakami! It comes tomorrow, right? I have pre-ordered it for my kindle because I can’t even take the time to go to a real bookstore. 😳 Let’s chat when we finish Killing Commendatore. xo

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    1. I think you would, too, Ti. And, if you don’t, it”s not taken a huge time commitment. But, it must speak to a lot of people or it wouldn’t be that popular.

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