Book Review: Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata

*** My reading list for this year has been exclusively women. Why? Because I realized that I mostly read men and wanted to read more women. So I picked up a few books from my to-read list, added to that some recommendation from friends and then finished off the list with some spur-of-the-moment purchases . For the days leading up to Christmas, my goal to write a short review of the books I have read this year. ***

When we traveled to Japan, shopping at convenience stores became something of a ritual. Before you turn your nose up, the coffee we drank at some of the convenience stores was some of the best I’ve had! The good memories of my travels prompted me to get this book on a whim and I am so glad that I did. Convenience Store Woman, is about Keiko, 36, who works at, as the title suggest, a convenience store. She has been working there since she started university, and that is the only job she has had up till now. Not only does this job give her a sense of purpose, she is also very good at it. She is, in my opinion, the perfect employee any organization would love to have. Her dedication knows no bounds. One example of this is when she “walks around the area” in order to “glean valuable information”, such as if a rival store is closing down, in order to help the store run more efficiently and smoothly.

She doesn’t quite fit in, but isn’t oblivious to that fact. In fact, her powers of observation help her get by. After carefully studying the “normal” people around her, she starts to emulate them in small ways. Enter well-meaning, but worried, family and friends. They wonder why at her age, she has never had a boyfriend and why she isn’t trying to get one. In order to stop their pestering, she decides to take-in a colleague from work, who basically just wants someone, who will take care of him.

“The Nail That Sticks Out Gets Hammered”

– Japanese Proverb

As I was reading this book, this Japanese proverb came to mind. A friend of mine, who has worked and lived in Japan for a long time, mentioned it to me once. Keiko seems to have mastered a way to game this system of conformity. In order to avoid being “hammered in”, she just fakes her way through. She is indeed a clever protagonist!