Sayaka Murata’s Convenience Store Woman is, in one word, unorthodox. It’s a very short novel, and plot-wise, it doesn’t pack that much of what you would call “action”. But that’s also the reason why it serves its purpose well.
This book tells a story of a Japanese woman named Keiko Furukura, who defines herself, above all else (even more than a human), as a convenience store worker. Ever since she was a student, she has been working at the same convenience store branch and at the same position. She’s encountered a number of staff members and managers who come and go, and yet she stayed.
Although she only works part time, her job at the convenience store is undoubtedly a highlight for Furukura, who is 38 years old and unmarried. Yes, this situation brings upon a monotonous routine to a person’s life, especially when that person has been doing it for 18 years, but it’s not bothersome to her at all. In fact, she loves it. From her daily routine to the atmosphere of the store, nothing beats it.
At first, the book just talks about her life as it is. And her life as it is is just her daily life in the convenience store. But it slowly progressed to unveil unique aspects of the human mind and behavior. Without spoiling anything, Convenience Store Woman tells of an eerie folktale for the modern world.
What I mostly learned from this book is that we don’t live in the same world as everyone else. Yes, geographically we do but our lives, the one we live physically and more so the one we live in our heads are not at all the same. It’s like sensation and perception. We can sense the same things but perceive them differently. It just goes to show we know virtually nothing about other people around us.
The “human experience” is not one universal thing. Similarly, this book also makes us question the existence of normality. Is there such a thing as normal? Or are we all just lying to ourselves and acting like whatever the majority approves or praises?