Convenience Store Woman is the 2016 contemporary short novel by award winning Japanese writer Sayaka Murata. This delightfully neurodivergent story is about a 36-year old autistic woman called Keiko Furukura, who has been working in the same convenience store for the last 18 years. Unlike most people whose jobs serve only as a means to an end, Keiko’s life revolves entirely around her job. From the clothes she wears to the food she eats to her personal hygiene; every action she takes is motivated by the interests of the store.
This short 163-page read is written in a very matter-of-fact way, devoid of any linguistic decoration, which I think is significant as it mirrors the everyday nature of Keiko’s life. Keiko is exceptionally meticulous about her profession since it’s the only thing that anchors her to neurotypical normality. She has always been a very strange individual according to others and her job allows her to ascertain which behaviours are “normal” through the observation and mimicry of other people.
I loved the unconventional dynamic between Keiko and Shiraha, the latter character possibly being autistic also. Shiraha initially comes across as a repellent person because of his embittered nature and lack of respect for women. He’s the type of person I would normally avoid but there’s an underlying complexity beneath his anti-social hikikomori* like behaviour that raises questions about typical masculinity.
Convenience Store Woman is written through the perspective of Keiko which gives the reader insight into her way of thinking. I thoroughly enjoyed this approach because it subverted the concept of normality by introducing us to a different neurological way of being and interacting with the world.
For that reason I rate Convenience Store Woman..
*hikikomori – Japanese word referring to socially awkward individuals who prefer to withdraw from society, particularly common with Japanese males.