The normal world has no room for exceptions and always quietly eliminates foreign objects. Anyone who is lacking is disposed of. So that’s why I need to be cured. Unless I’m cured, normal people will expurgate me. Convenience Store Woman, Sayaka Murata
Our final Introverted Book Club read for 2018 was a wonderfully fitting little novella!
Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata, tells the story of thirty-six-year-old Keiko Furukura, a socially defined and self-proclaimed oddball, who is endlessly puzzled by human behaviour. Keiko's family and co-workers, despite her conscious attempts at 'hiding' what she knows is unusual behaviour and thoughts, all know that she is an 'outsider' and anomaly to their society. Keiko ponders often on the idea of being cured and what this might look like, as well as what it would demand from her. After working in the same convenience store for 18 years, Keiko's life is turned upside down as she attempts to meet societal demands.
The wonder in this book is how it takes more general ideas of what society deems as 'normal' behaviour, what expectations await for both sexes in order to be considered 'happy' and 'fulfilled', and twists them into a completely new retelling. Keiko's contentment about her simple life and job is ultimately ignored and dismissed as her parents, sister and group of female friends try to impress on her what she should be doing with her life.
When Keiko does attempt to meet the ideals of what is expected of her - with a male character who left my skin crawling - his unsuitability and sheer grotesqueness (both in character and physique) is ignored by those around her as they applaud and celebrate the fact that is finally beginning to lead a 'normal' life.
The outcome of this transition on Keiko is drastic.
I read a review in the New York Times which labelled this book a misfit love story, and I have to concur. It's the most bizarre tale of love, between a woman and a convenience store chain. A strange woman finding solace in the strange world of the convenience store. I enjoyed the push on the characters: the exaggerated unlikeable Shiraha, the artificial, surface-level dialogue of the surrounding characters, and the almost unfathomable Keiko.
This is a tale of love triumphing. Of one woman knowing her place in the world and finding the courage to stick to it. Regardless of what society tells her. The ending will leave you head-scratching in confusion and fist pumping in celebration, in equal measure.
The Introverted Book Club is a monthly bookish meet up, to discuss one book of choice over coffee. Our preferred themes are around emotional health, psychology, and writers from non-western backgrounds.