In a world where I am increasingly feeling overwhelmed by the amount of content available, Convenience Store woman was a sharp and clear breath of fresh air. Originally written in Japanese by the best selling author Sayaka Murata, Convenience Store Women is the first of her 10 best sellers to be translated into English.
The plot centres around our middle-aged protagonist, Keiko, who works in a dead-end job at her local convenience store. Her lack of ambition and generally odd behaviour means that Keiko has never really fit into any of the ready-made moulds that society had to offer. Instead, she is cast as an oddball and her life stands in stark contrast to her peers who have followed a well trodden path for women – education, career and marriage. The story that unfolds is of Kieko trying to decode the rules of a ‘normal life’ to pacify her nearest and dearest. Through Kieko’s life Murata explorers the opposing pulls of modern capitalism and the need to hold on to traditional societal roles.
I loved this short novella for its quick and dry style of writing. The plot is not overly dramatic in but manages to expose some key themes for the reader’s introspection. For me Kieko’s simple act of mediocrity, seen as an abnormality by society, is an act of quiet protest. A protest against the rigid social constructs of womanhood and the capitalist hamster-wheel we are all part of.
On a more fundamental level Keiko’s urge to decode the rules of life is relatable to most of us. I think everyone at some point or the other has felt that they are the only ones born without the Life Manual and you’re just trying to catch up.
A quirky read that I strongly recommend!