Sayaka Murata tells the story of the ultimate Convenience Store Woman, from the perspective of Keiko, a model employee who has worked at the store for 18 years. Woven with dark humour and darker realities of society’s ableist and patriarchal perspectives of socially normal behaviour, Keiko’s story is one of resilience and acceptance of oneself amongst contrary opinions.
Keiko works at a busy convenience store and ensures that the store operates exactly as outlined in the employee manual, which she knows by heart. While the manual defines Keiko’s role as a steadfast employee, telling her exactly how to behave while at work, she often wishes she had access to such a manual to help her navigate her life in the outside world. Keiko observes other employees, absorbing their mannerisms and fashion sense to help her navigate the complexities of life and to construct her own “normal” identity.
Keiko is an anomaly, especially to her family who constantly try to “fix” her to fit into the more acceptable social norms. At 36, she should be married and have children, and certainly no longer be working in the convenience store! Eventually, Keiko succumbs to their persistence and decides it may be easier to try to fit into their sense of what is “normal.” Building on her repertoire of prepared, socially appropriate and expected answers, she announces a life change that everyone accepts and builds upon. Finally, Keiko will be a normal member of society!
However, Keiko soon realizes her safe spaces are no longer hers, and the list of expectations placed on her only grows. Will Keiko realize what she needs to do to be really happy?
This book is a quirky, compact tale with a lot to say. It will have you thinking about how society’s norms define us and our actions and remain with you long after the last page is turned.
Helen Varga is a Library Technician at the Steveston Branch of the Richmond Public Library. She is currently reading the Iona Whishaw mystery series. For other popular reading, suggestions check out Richmond Public Library's website.