“Translated Literature” as a genre is magical. It lets you explore the unknown from the comfort of your home. It gives you access to different cultures, traditions, ways of living, etc. which otherwise you would never experience. The novel I am going to speak about today will take you on one such adventure.
Convenience Store Woman (Review)
“The normal world has no room for exceptions and always quietly eliminates foreign objects. Anyone who is lacking is disposed of.”
This story is about Keiko Furukura, whose behavior since childhood has always been considered as peculiar. She is a 36-year-old part-time convenience store worker. When she took this job 18 years ago, being a freeter wasn’t unusual or looked upon. But now, her family and a few of her friends are concerned and worried about her even though she is incredibly at peace and efficient at her job. Keiko has never been in a relationship and always has struggled to understand human behavior. “Hiromachi Station Smile Mart” is one place where she is treated as an equal and not as an off-the-beat person; therefore, she adores that place. To her advantage, the store provides her a written manual on “how to behave.” As for her personal identity, she absorbs the characteristics and qualities of her co-workers and the people around her: “Infecting each other like this is how we maintain ourselves as human.” Soon the a-typical lifestyle that she has developed for her self starts causing distress to her family and friends, and deep down, Keiko knows she is upsetting people, but for the life of her, she cannot understand what is wrong. So as an attempt to make others happy, she decides to change her self, whether good or bad, at least would be better than the state of impasse she was in at the moment. Amidst all this, enters “Shiraha,” a male co-worker—equally weird but selfish. Will he help Keiko in any way to attain normalcy? Will he be any good for her?"This book gave me some major hunger pangs for Japanese fast food." Do you agree?
As Sayaka Murata has said in one of her interviews, she wrote this novel from two different viewpoints, one from Keiko’s perspective and one from all other human beings, the “Normal” ones. The normal side is always judging her for not being “normal,” even though she is not doing anything wrong. While from Keiko’s side, the normal ones are monstrous. This book will make you question this monster of what society calls “normalcy.” It shows us how social norms have not changed since prehistoric times. Anyone who does not fit in is expelled: men who don’t earn, women who do not get married, cannot give birth or take care of the family. It tells us how this era is just “stone age with a veneer of contemporary society.” The most important question is if you meet a person like Keiko, will you ask her to follow the manual of “normalcy” and try to “cure” her? This book gave me some major hunger pangs for Japanese fast food, and visiting such a convenience store has already made it to my bucket list (it’s just beautiful).
Even though the ending is somewhat predictable, it is a good book with dark humor, laughable at times, and written in simple language. All in all, I am glad to have read this and recommend you to read it too, share your thoughts using #BookWritten. Happy reading! 😀