Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata

(translated from Japanese by Ginny Tapley Takemori)

Writing/Translation: 3/5 Plot: 3/5 Characters: 4/5

An odd book about an odd woman who is trying to survive in a world she finds confusing. As a child, she proposes eating the dead bird found in the playground. This seems practical to her, as her father loves yakitori and she can’t see the difference, but the other children and mothers are appalled. She never manages to get more “normal” or accepted than that.

When she gains part-time employment as a convenience store worker at 17, she feels reborn — a successful part of the “machine of society.”  19 years later she is 36, still in the same part-time employment, and has never had nor wanted a sexual relationship. She tries to be normal, mimicking facial expressions, manners of speech, and even clothing items from those around her, but she is getting messages that it is still not enough. So she tries something very, very, different.

This is a book about conformity and fear of expulsion from the herd — a Japanese version of Eleanor Oliphant, The Rosie Project, or The 600 Hours of Edward. The author did a good job of getting us inside Keiko’s head and there are some masterful portrayals of other characters as seen through her eyes.  I always appreciate a book that can describe the world through a differently structured brain.  I liked the ending — it wasn’t a typically happy ending (as in the books I just mentioned) but it was an ending that was happy for Keiko.

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