Convenience store woman

Convenience Store Woman

Sayaka Murata

Keiko Furukura is content working part-time in a convenience store. However, having worked there for eighteen years she finds herself up against her family and society’s expectations.

The normal world has no room for exceptions and always quietly eliminates foreign objects. Anyone who is lacking is disposed of. So that’s why I need to be cured. Unless I’m cured, normal people will expurgate me.

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.

The author, Sayaka Murata, works part-time at a convenience store.

Convenience Store Woman is the first of Sayaka Murata’s ten novels to be translated into English.

Saya Murata has won the prestigious Gunzo, Yukio Mishima and Akutagawa prizes in her native country, Japan.

 

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Tell me, who did we compare unconventional female protagonists too before Eleanor Oliphant? Keiko in Convenience Store Woman has supposedly been coined the ‘Japanese Eleanor’ (🙄). I get it, Eleanor is a particularly memorable, fantastically crafted unconventional protagonist, but in my opinion, to compare every lead character that is socially awkward or remotely quirky, is a lazy trope. This little novel is remarkably eccentric and engaging in its own right, and to directly compare the two protagonists seems unfair, and devalues its own distinct charm. _
Quick Disclaimer: I’m massively contradicting myself here because I definitely suggested The Pisces was an x-rated Eleanor Oliphant, and I regret such a lazy comparison! Sorry me. _ I actually found this book distinctly relatable. The protagonist is 36, single, and still working a ‘lowly’ job as a Convenience Store Worker, not because she ‘can’t’ do anything else, but because she doesn’t feel a desire too. She lives a simple existence, but is content. Mostly, it’s a novel about societal expectation, but it also reflects on the comfort in predictability, in routine, in a simple life. Something I actually think about a lot. I think anyone who has worked in retail or hospitality will relate to this in some way. There’s a reassuringly uncomplicated quality to that kind of work, whilst often physically difficult, it’s also unpretentious, and often comes with an element of camaraderie that can’t be matched. _ This book is really quite funny in places, and although Keiko is an awkward, offbeat sort of a protagonist (that isn’t necessarily loveable), you find yourself routing for her. Yes, I suppose like Eleanor. 🙄 _ Anyone else read this? _ #bookstagram #bookgram #instabooks #igreads #booktography #bibliophile #bookster #vscoreads #booklove #amreading #booklovers #epicreads #bookclub #japanesefiction #japan #japanesesnacks #pocky #hellopanda #conveniencestorewoman

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📚Group review: Average of 🌟🌟🌟.4/5📚 . Convenience Store Woman tackles an omnipresent and loaded word: Should. How should a woman in her mid 30s live? Should she still enjoy a job at a convenience store – a position some deem lowly and one that you only stay in for a couple of years at most – or should she move on and have a “career”? Shouldn’t she be married by now? Shouldn’t she have started having children? So much of our sense of self is dictated to us by expectations of others – both our families and the wider community. In this short novella, our protagonist, Keiko, thinks she is broken as she enjoys her job in the 24 hour store and has no interest in a relationship. She finds comfort in the store’s daily rhythm. But her family put pressure on her to “be normal and settle down” so this is her attempt to do that. I personally loved this book. I found Keiko to be such an endearing character and as someone who works in a company that runs 24-hours a day, I can appreciate how it has its own kind of heartbeat and it was like a living character. I think one of the reasons why I appreciated this story is because to a certain extent I can relate. I SHOULD want to further my career and go for more senior positions, however I am content with the role I have. I SHOULD want to marry my partner because we have been together for 18 years and have two children, yet we haven't. Throughout much of the story, Keiko talks about how she is broken however it isn’t really spelt out why that’s the case. She says how she mimics others – but to a certain extent don’t we all? Or do we do it subconsciously whereas she was very aware she was doing it? As none of us have lived in Japan, it was also difficult to decipher if it was over exaggerated to make a point or if in Japanese culture, there really is this fervent obsession for women to live a certain way. Perhaps, this is one aspect that was lost in translation. I want to thank @amyandbooks @underthebookpile and @jesikasbookshelf for reading it with me, I enjoyed our chats 😊 . 🛒 This photo by the way was taken in London's biggest Japanese convenience store 😊 . . #conveniencestorewoman #bookreviewblogger #book

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