Sayaka Murata’s English language breakthrough is witty, charming and strangely eerie. The novel focuses on Keiko Furukura, now in her mid-thirties. Keiko has always been abnormal: as a child, her parents tried to combat her aversion to the norm, with little success, leaving Keiko doubting what is expected from her. Keiko talks us through her life and the dominating presence of the convenience store, her place of work and source of her guiding rules. Having started at the store aged eighteen, when it first opened its doors, she finds herself obsessed with devoting her life to her work, a job which leaves her ridiculed by her friends and family. Keiko’s life is shifted upon the arrival of a new employee, a man who renounces society and causes Keiko’s routine to be broken.
Convenience Store Woman is a novel that breaks the mould, much in the ways of its two central characters. Keiko isn’t a relatable character but her quirks are at times amusing and even surreal, this proves to be entertaining and spurs the novel forward. Her questioning of humanity and its expectations shines a light on the imbalance of gender standards, with emphasis on beauty, age and occupation.
Murata is able to craft a truly unique story, a book which would be a welcome addition to any bookshelf. Its short size and relatively simple vocabulary make it a book that is easily read. She focuses on a topic that will resonate more with female audiences, however, there is something in it for all.
How do the beliefs of the character Sirancha contrast with those of Keiko?
What do you think Keiko finds in Sirancha’s company?
Why do you think Keiko eventually returns to convenience store work? Is this a positive or negative result?
What does Sirancha represent in Japanese society?
Why do you think that so little is said of Keiko’s parents and why is her sister her main source of approval and advice?
What part do Keiko’s co-workers play in her life?
Why do you think Keiko’s manager reacts differently to what she expected both when she tells him about living with Sirancha and quitting her job?
Sirancha constantly comments negatively on Keiko’s appearance and ogles at women, what does this say about his character and his treatment of the opposite sex?
What expectations does the novel point out about being male and female?
Is Sirancha’s sister in-law a positive role model for women? How does she compare to Keiko? Convenience-Store-Woman-Discussion-Questions.pdf
Keiko offers Sirancha to share her apartment, creating a rouse that they are a couple, a lie which he is happy for Keiko to use. Since moving in, Sirancha puts demands on Keiko to find a better job, stating that she will have to be the main provider. Sirancha reinforces this after the untimely visit of his sister-in law who is fed up with his behaviour and states that he owes the family money. Sirancha then persuades Keiko to quit work in search of a new job to help pay back the debt. Keiko’s resignation is surprisingly welcomed by her work colleagues who are happy to learn of her supposed relationship with Sirancha. During the final passages of the book, Keiko goes for a job interview, however, she finds herself drawn to a convenience store and realises it is where she belongs. Content with her realisation she decides to do as she wants and leaves Sirancha.