Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata.
Reviewed: Thursday January 20, 2024.

My rating
Three stars.

Keiko is 36 years old and has worked in a convenience store all her life. She's never had a boyfriend, or been in love, or even thought about any other job. The store makes her happy, and yet, the people around her are so insistent on her changing that she begins to wonder what, exactly, is so wrong with her way of life that others cannot stand it.

My review
This book was quick and charming. As a narrator, I found Keiko endearing, but I've always had a problem with most translated books where the translation feels a bit stiff, and I imagine that this is not the case in the native language version of the book. That's why I usually prefer reading the original copy, but since I don't speak Japanese even a bit, I relegated myself to the audiobook version. That stiffness is maybe part of why I rated this book lower than I would have.

I thought this book didn't have much to say, but what it did have, it said very eloquently. It dedicated itself to exploring why Keiko wants to work in a convenience store for the rest of her life. The book gives her the opportunity to switch careers, but it's obvious that it's not what she wants to do, and I appreciated the fact that Murata made it clear that while society might encourage and want Keiko to act a certain way, that way of acting is not what makes her happy.

I read a few reviews in preparation for writing my own, and I found a lot of them had a frustration as to Keiko's perceived lack of character development. She begins and ends the book in exactly the same position as the convenience store woman. I disagree. I think, for the length of the book, the book demonstrates a perfect development of Keiko, not in physical state, but mental. She begins the book puzzled as to if she should work at the store or not, preoccupied with society's expectations of her. She wants to prove herself cured, and is ready to bow to people's expectations of her to prevent ostracization. At the end of the book, she is able to accept that the store is what makes her happy and that she doesn't particularly care what society, presenting itself in the form of her incel coworker, thinks about her.

Again, I think Keiko was a charming protagonist, but the fact that the book didn't afford much more space to really getting into the intricacies of its thesis paired with the stiff feeling of the translation diminished its impact on me. Still, I found it entertaining and enjoyed Keiko's dry wit and the societal commentary.

Unless I'm cured, normal people will expurgate me.