Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata
“Tokyo resident Keiko Furukara has never fit in – neither in her family, nor in school – but when at the age of 18 she begins working at the Hiiromachi branch of national convenience store chain Smile Mart, she realizes instantly that she has found her purpose in life. Delighted to be able to exist in a place where the rules of social interaction are crystal clear (many are laid out line-by-line in the store’s manual), Keiko does her best to copy the dress, mannerisms, and mode of speech of her colleagues, playing the part of a “normal” person excellently, more or less.
Keiko is the perfect employee – never late, always worrying about how to maximize sales, brilliantly conscientious, and highly energetic. Managers come and go but Keiko remains at the store for 18 years. It’s almost hard to tell where the store ends and she begins. At 36, Keiko is very happy in her life, but the people close to her, from her family to her coworkers, pressure her to settle down with a man and to find a proper profession. Eventually, she is pushed to make a huge change. The static world of Keiko is upended – but will it be for the better?
A brilliant depiction of an unusual psyche and an extraordinary world, Convenience Store Woman is both an ironic and sharp-eyed look at contemporary work culture and the pressures to conform, as well as a charming and completely fresh portrait of an unforgettable heroine.” -Audible
This book was recommended to me by my book club that I go to once a month. They gave it rave reviews so I am excited to read it
- She knew she was weird when she was a kid and wanted to eat a dead bird by grilling it and eating with her family, while everyone else wanted to bury it instead
- But she thought it was weird that everyone else was killing flowers to make a grave for the bird
- She decided it was best for her to either stay silent or follow instructions instead of acting on her own accord
- After her first day working at the convenient store, she felt as if she was reborn and were now a normal cog in society
- She is now 36 years old and none of the same people, managers, or products are the same as when she first started
- She picked up cues about how to speak and fashion choices from her coworker
- She found that when she copied the expressions and emotions of others, they all became happy from the solidarity
- She mixes together other people speech patterns in order to sound normal to others
- Her sister taught her that she can just give a vague answer to personal questions and people will come to their own conclusions
- She couldn’t see why one baby might be more important then another as they all look the same to her with slight differences
- They are basically tiny animal creatures
Reader’s note: She seems to not have much of a sense of empathy towards others and sees the world very coldly and logically, like a computer or a robot. She seems to lack emotion and compassion for others
- People who felt violated may feel better when they attack other people in the same way
- She was so surprised at how people’s attitudes shifted suddenly and were so ecstatic to hear a guy was living with her
- They pretty much created their own stories about her new life
- However, she did find that the social interactions were a bit easier now
- However, with the extra person, whom she referred to as her pet, she had to pick up extra shifts to pay for his food
- After her sister saw her living situation with the guy, she was distressed because she wanted her older sister to be “cured” and “normal”
Reader’s note: This is so weird because society seems to treat weird people as if it was their choice to not assimilate and be like everyone else. Keiko is just oblivious to how she’s different and what she should do to be “cured”
- Shiraha’s sister-in-law told her not to reproduce with him
- She didn’t take it personally and thought it was a very rational piece of advice
- Before her interview, she heard the call of a local convenience store and started to rearrange and re-organize everything
Reader’s note: It makes sense that after 18 years, she has become a genius or master at what she does
- She had the realization that a convenience store worker was who she was and her being
- She realized there was a human advantage to having him, but as a convenience store worker, he was useless to her
- She realize she existed for the convenient store and had to keep her self in top shape to serve it and its customers
Main ideas / Themes:
- People find comfort and solidarity when others share in their emotions and copy their expressions
- When you give vague answers to personal questions, people will come to their own conclusions
- People who feel violated will attack others in the same way in an attempt to feel better
- Some people actually think being different or “weird” is a choice people make
- After doing something for a long time, performing tasks can feel like intuition or instinct
- Self-awareness and knowing who we are is very important as it guides our purpose and fulfillment
Such an interesting story about one of the most unique characters I’ve ever read about. It’s fascinating how her brain works and how it thinks, but I can totally understand where she’s coming from.
The entire time I was trying to figure out which pieces of the puzzle she was missing that made her thinking so different from ours. Was it a lack of emotions? A lack of empathy? She thought process is so logical, and she never takes anything personally, it’s like she’s devoid of an ego. She has the drive to find her purpose and has some level of self awareness. But all of her decisions are always to find the most logical path and reason out the right thing to do.
While this leaves her susceptible to being taken advantage of, it means she’s really good at being a “cog in a machine” or in this case a convenience store worker. She frequently calls herself “part of the store” and can hear it speaking to her. While she’s not good at making high-level decisions and it’s hard for her to make decisions based on the big picture on an intuitive level, she works more like computer programming and knows how to effectively navigate simple cause and effect relationships. At least when it comes to the tasks and duties of a convenience store.
I think the best metaphor or comparison I can come up with for her is that she’s like a robot or machine devoid of emotions and an ego. It’s like she runs on a programming based on scripts that cause specific actions based on certain input. She also seems void of human desires like the need for love or romance. She also doesn’t seem to require human contact/intimacy, but merely appeases those around her because acting too much out of the norm makes people suspicious and interfere with her life.
Logically, if she makes an effort to appease their curiosities, they’ll eventually leave her alone and allow her to get back to her life mission, which is to work at the store.
Overall, this is a really interesting story about a very unique character. I was so intrigued with following her story and I was curious about how it would turn out. Low key thought that the plot twist was that she was actually a Japanese robot, lol!
One Takeaway / Putting into practice:
There are a few good nuggets of wisdom that I found in this book and put them in the “main ideas / themes” section. While I think the most significant idea that the reader can take away from this book is how crucial self-awareness is, my takeaway that I would like to implement more of is:
- People find comfort when others share in their emotions
I think it’s a subtle but still significant point that we may know of but don’t consider as much as we should. Listening when a friend wants to tell you something (good or bad) is important. But I think one step further is to understand that when we share news with someone, we inherently desire the person we’re telling to share in our emotions. This gives us solidarity and comfort.
Moving forward, I want to implement this more often in my encounters and conversations with others. I want to be better at empathizing and putting myself in someone else’s shoes, trying to feel and experience their emotions. This way I can connect with them better to make them feel heard and valued.
Keiko Furukara finds that the only place she fits in with society is as a convenience store worker.
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