Book Review: Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata

compellingly mundane, audacious, atypical

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Convenience Store Woman is incredibly compelling, especially for a book about something seemingly so mundane as working in a convenience store. This story brings radiant (fluorescent) light to a commonly overlooked but incredibly important piece of our society. (Although considering the state of the world, we are starting to recognize a little more just how important convenience stores and grocery stores are.)

Anyway, this wonderful work is laced with themes about conforming to society, or having to fake it when you just don’t fit into what people expect of you. It’s confronts what it means to fit into the modern world that we have created and questions if modern society is really that different than humanity has always been. It forces us to think about the expectations we put onto people and wonder why we judge people based on what we perceive as accomplishments, rather than whether a person is happy and comfortable in who their own body. It guides you into to thinking critically on what it means to fit into society at all. It is wonderful.

Sayaka Murata captures the scene of a convenience store so vividly, it’s hard to believe that you are not in the store as you read. The way she is able to transport you into the store is incredible, you will find yourself listening for the door to ring, hearing the clink of glass bottles, and wanting to restock certain shelves based on the weather.

Big Takeaway:

Convenience Store Woman is a captivating story about an overlooked but incredibly important piece of the world. In an incredibly vivid narrative, this story weaves themes of consequences of non-conformity, societal acceptance of sexlessness, and the search for the feeling of belonging and purpose.

About the Author

Sayaka Murata (in Japanese, 村田 沙耶香) is one of the most exciting up-and-coming writers in Japan today. She herself still works part time in a convenience store, which gave her the inspiration to write Convenience Store Woman (Conbini Ningen). She debuted in 2003 with Junyu (Breastfeeding), which won the Gunzo Prize for new writers. In 2009 she won the Noma Prize for New Writers with Gin iro no uta (Silver Song), and in 2013 the Mishima Yukio Prize for Shiro-oro no machi no, sono hone no taion no (Of Bones, of Body Heat, of Whitening City). Convenience Store Woman won the 2016 Akutagawa Award. Murata has two short stories published in English (both translated by Ginny Tapley Takemori): “Lover on the Breeze” (Ruptured Fiction(s) of the Earthquake, Waseda Bungaku, 2011) and “A Clean Marriage” (Granta 127: Japan, 2014).

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