THE PLOT: ‘Convenience Store Woman’ by Sayaka Murata (translated by Ginny Tapley Takemori) is a literary novel about a neuro-diverse woman living in Japan. Keiko has worked in a convenience store for eighteen years. She loves the store but when friends and family question why she doesn’t have a better job, she starts to wonder if she needs to change. An opportunity comes up to have a ‘normal’ life so she takes the chance, thinking it will help cure her inability to fit in. But can she fit into society’s expectations without losing the magic that makes her unique?
RATING: This masterpiece of a book deserves four and a half stars. At only 160 pages, it’s a wonderful lesson in constructing character and plot, and should be essential reading for any aspiring writer. Despite the sparse writing-style, the reader instantly connects with Keiko and I felt protective over her from page one. Though it doesn’t feel heavy with description, the novel is highly visual and I can imagine the store so vividly. I do wish the book was longer and that there was more resolution, which is a matter of personal taste. To be honest, I read this in one day and as soon as I finished, I could’ve immediately started reading it all over again.
GOOD BITS: Every aspect of this book is brilliant. It’s witty, inventive and touching – the perfect little read to get you out of a slump. It’s almost as if a short story kept developing as the character revealed more of herself. Though it’s a short book, it’s not just a character study. There’s a very clear plot, which kept unfolding in surprising and entertaining ways. There’s also an important societal message and fully fleshed out secondary characters. Kudos to the translator, who managed to make such a nuanced character and story come to life in a foreign language.
NOT SO GOOD BITS: I could’ve done with an extra ten pages at the end. Maybe it’s because I love tying stories up with a bow, but I wanted a few more pages to show a male character realising the error of his ways or to show Keiko’s sister accepting her for who she is. Essentially, I think I wanted a secondary character to react to the main characters’ arc thereby affirming it as an acceptable life choice / affirming her coming-of-age story. Or, perhaps I just wanted to spend more time with this book? I don’t know. I just wanted even more!
OVERALL: I’d recommend this book to lovers of ‘Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine’ by Gail Honeyman and ‘A Room Called Earth’ by Madeleine Ryan. It’s a superb work of fiction and a #translatedgem , and everyone should pick up a copy.