Book Review: Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata

Inner peace is my ultimate goal, and I often go to libraries (though not often as I should) to find it. When I walked in, I asked the librarian to show me “the happiest book in the store.” My faux pas, I was not in a book store, thankfully. I get in some mighty big trouble in those places.

Located right in front of her was Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata, translated from Japanese. She said she hadn’t read it but her friend recently had and died laughing. I lived laughing from this book.

Ultimately it is a novel following the story of a thirty-something convenience store worker named Keiko Furukura, which I had originally thought was a memoir. It’s not always funny – it’s a strange, bitter-orange, flavorful in layers like a spice cake book. Sometimes it’s downright creepy with some moments that had me reeling. But it does have moments that burst with joy in their own way.

It was a totally unique and engaging story. I’m a slow reader and it took me about three hours to finish – the book is less than 200 pages, and it’s soaked with psychological detail there for the finding. The book reads as if a romance to a convenience store for empowering a woman to be herself, as she explicates herself as being apart from society in heartbreaking ways, even within the convenience store. There have been times when I’ve been afraid of being an outcast to the extreme of Keiko (though aside from the shared outcast moniker we share no similarities) and I haven’t found my convenience store yet.

The book is true to life and across cultures. In my limited experience in the world, the characters I’ve come across translate from the page to actual human beings I have met. Typically I enjoy books from other countries because I love seeing what’s the same and what’s different culturally, and I daresay there’s a lot in common with Japan and the Southern US Bible Belt culture from what I’ve found in this book.

I hope this book receives the exposure it deserves. It truly is a gem.

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