‘Convenience Store Woman’ by Sayaka Murata – An Unsung Hero

 

‘Convenience Store Woman’ by Sayaka Murata (2016) – 163 pages     Translated from the Japanese by Ginny Tapley Takemori

In every successful endeavor whether it be a family, a business, a clinic, or even a convenience store, there are people who keep it running smoothly and efficiently while at the same time keeping things pleasant and clean. These people are often not the bosses, but they are still totally dedicated to the success of the enterprise. Often these unsung heroes are women. At the same time if there is someone messing up the works with a hateful spiteful attitude, it is often a man who may or may not be the boss.

I read this Japanese novella because convenience stores are something I can relate to, having several of these little stores in our vicinity, usually combined with a gas station. Convenience stores are one thing Japan and Minnesota have in common.

Keiko Furakura has worked part-time at her neighborhood Smile Mart for 18 years. She is not the boss. She greets each customer with a friendly “Irasshaimase, Good Morning”. She makes sure the store keeps the items which customers want in stock, and she arranges her displays to make them attractive. She is dedicated to her store, and her managers think well of her.

Keiko has never had a boyfriend even though she is 38. Her family and her few friends are worried about her because she has no life outside of her job.

Her convenience store hires a young man named Shiraha. It soon becomes apparent that he doesn’t measure up as an employee since he does not do the tasks assigned to him and is insolent and not friendly with the customers. Shiraha is fired from the Smile Mart.

Later Shiraha hangs around Keiko, and Keiko puts up with him because her family feels bad for her for never having a boyfriend. Shiraha moves in with her, does no work, and sponges money off of her. He convinces Keiko to quit the Smile Mart and look for a real job. Keiko’s family and friends are happy for her that she has finally found a male someone.

That is the setup. I won’t tell you what happens next.

Much of what has been written about ‘Convenience Store Woman’ discusses the rigidity and homogenizing pressures of Japanese society. I prefer to concentrate on the similarities between the little stores in Japan and the little stores in Minnesota. Stories like this one about a convenience store woman in Japan could well happen here in Minnesota too. In both places there is a wide variety of types of people that makes it difficult to generalize. I don’t see this situation as at all strange or unusual for any place in the world.

‘Convenience Store Woman’ is a well-done enjoyable novella that celebrates someone who normally doesn’t get the credit she deserves.

 

Grade :   A

 

 

13 responses to this post.

  1. LOL this set-up sounds like the stories in a collection called Revenge: sad repressed types endure for ages and then lash out with the kitchen knife.
    Am I on the right track?

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    • Hi Lisa,
      No, I’m afraid not. This novella contains no violence whatsoever. It is more about someone finding their proper niche and shining even if it is not what others expect for them. It is a feel-good story rather than a horror story. I’m sorry if I gave people the wrong impression.

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      • Well, that’s a relief. I’ve never got on with J-Lit, because all I’ve read is books that pursue that repression-violence stereotype (which I think is a trope that attempts to justify their behaviour to POWs in WW2). So maybe I should check this one out then!

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        Reply

  2. I have this one from Netgalley and I’m looking forward to it. I like characters who don’t conform to what is expected of them by society.

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  3. […] not the only one: Tony, from Tony’s Book World, has reviewed it favourably, […]

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  4. Great review, Tony. Totally agree with your thoughts on this one. I was charmed by Keiko.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

  5. Another great review – I’ve got myself a copy of this book – can’t wait.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

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