Convenience Store Woman

By Sayaka Murata, Ginny Tapley Takemori (translator),

Book cover of Convenience Store Woman

Book description

Meet Keiko.

Keiko is 36 years old. She's never had a boyfriend, and she's been working in the same supermarket for eighteen years.

Keiko's family wishes she'd get a proper job. Her friends wonder why she won't get married.

But Keiko knows what makes her happy, and she's not going…

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Why read it?

9 authors picked Convenience Store Woman as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

Full confession: I originally selected this work because of its short length. My goal was to read 50 books in 2023, and I had fallen behind. What a rewarding surprise, then, when this novel turned out to be my favorite of the year!

This book details the circumspect life of a woman who does not engage in relationships in the same ways as other people. Her thoughts and emotions revolve, instead, around the convenience store where she works.

This novel explores the tyranny of societal expectations and the difficulties atypical people face, two of my favorite themes both to read…

What could be a more boring premise for a novel than the inner voice of an awkward young woman who takes a job in a Tokyo neighborhood mini-mart? If Proust had written as fluidly and vividly as Ms. Murata I would have finished Remembrance of Things Past.  

For once I had to admit, "I could not put this book down!" I found it profoundly touching and realize that the ups and downs of someone with a small, modest life can be just as moving and dramatic as stories of the high and mighty.

This contemporary, quirky tale centers around the life of Keiko, a young woman who has never done anything in a conventional way and has her mother very worried that her daughter will never find a man and settle down into a conventional life. No, Keiko’s ways of thinking are startling and odd in ways that are both amusing and somewhat horrifying, as she really does fall outside the realm of conventional thinking and socially rewarded behavior. The reader comes to love her as she grows into womanhood (and personhood) as a worker in a fast-paced convenience store, where she memorizes…

From Marian's list on a sweet journey into Japan.

This book is the epitome of life in Japan. The real, awkward harsh truths that underlay each chapter as the main character tries to navigate a simple life free from judgment, kept me hooked from the first to the last word! The dark humour had me laughing out loud at points as it sparked so many memories of my own time living in Japan. I would recommend this book to anyone wanting a deeper understanding of a non-stereotypical look at Japanese life. 

From Ash's list on nostalgic stories set in Japan.

Keiko Furukura can’t find her fit in the world until she’s hired as a sales clerk at Smile Mart. (I imagine it’s like the 7-11 stores in Tokyo, which serve pretty good food.) She’s an ideal worker, primarily because her passion for Smile Smart is genuine. Yet her sister and others think she should marry, pursue a career, and at least have a boyfriend. Herein lies the heart of the inner struggle, to which each of us navigates to some degree or another: how much to relinquish oneself in order to please others? Keiko’s inner battle is valiant and believable,…

From Nina's list on iconoclastic women.

Part of my inspiration for Joan came from Murata’s novella about a single, childless, thirty-something-year-old woman who works in a convenience store and loves the work that she does. I blazed through this book thanks to its smart plotting, provocative social commentary, and wickedly delicious humor. The book was originally written in Japanese and once it became an international best-seller, translated into English.  I think it’s important for all predominantly English-speaking readers to read more translations of East Asian writers, and for those who haven’t, this is usually the first book I recommend. 

Though separated from Mildred Lathbury’s world by a vast gulf of space and time, Sayaka Murata’s 2016 novel unexpectedly occupies some of the same territory. Murata’s protagonist Keiko Furukura is a single woman in her thirties in a society that prizes marriage as the only real happy ending for women. Unlike Mildred, who does a little part-time work and otherwise survives on a small inheritance, Keiko has found a way of supporting herself financially and emotionally by working at one of Tokyo’s many convenience stores—that is, until things start to go wrong. Keiko’s fellow novel characters regard her as a…

This is a book that some people have compared to my own book because it’s about a young woman whose family doesn’t understand her and thinks she needs help but she’s working it out herself, trying to live an authentic life. It’s dark, funny, tender, all the things I love. It’s about societal pressures, not fitting in, but also about how the everyday mundane things can save us.

What stays with you long after you read this is the authentic voice of the protagonist, and the compelling attention to detail of her life. Like all the best fiction, Murata-san takes you to an unfamiliar place, and makes it real and relevant.

From Michael's list on fiction books set in Japan.

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