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I picked this book up only knowing that its setting was in a Japanese convenience store. Photos of mysterious, beautifully packaged snack products and onigiri (rice balls) arranged in artful displays, in flavors that will never reach our shores, have always intrigued me. In this little gem of a novella, we follow the life story of Keiko, a probably high-functioning autistic woman (although this is never mentioned) who has found a measure of fulfillment the last 20 years, working part-time shifts at the Hiromachi train station "Smile Mart." The employee manual is her Bible--and almost as long. This is not enough for Keiko's friends and family, who want her to have a husband and family, or a career. The comedy is served both light and dark, as Keiko polishes her "normal" act.
“Keiko Furukura has worked at her local convenience store for 18 years. Every day, she ensures that the shelves are tidy, the hot food bar is stocked, and the featured items are adequately displayed. She greets every customer with a cheerful ‘Irasshaimase!’ and no one notices that she’s never fit in anywhere else. Murata draws lush descriptions of the beauty of order and routine out of simple, spare prose, and every page crackles with the life she’s created. Because of the humor, the wit, the almost unbearable loveliness of it all, Convenience Store Woman, a small book about a quiet life, makes an enormous impact on the reader.”
— Lauren Peugh, Powell's Books, Portland, OR
“Rebels tend to be outlandish, extroverted, opinionated, and brassy. Thirty-six-year-old Tokyo resident Keiko Furukura, working half her life in a convenience store, defies expectations, spurns relationships, irritates her family, ignores social pressures, and inadvertently—and joyously—flips rebellion on its head.”
— Mike Hare, Northshire Bookstore, Manchester Center, VT
Shortlisted for the Best Translated Book Award
Longlisted for the Believer Book Award
Longlisted for the Warwick Prize for Women in Translation
A Los Angeles Times Bestseller
The English-language debut of an exciting young voice in international fiction, selling 660,000 copies in Japan alone, Convenience Store Woman is a bewitching portrayal of contemporary Japan through the eyes of a single woman who fits into the rigidity of its work culture only too well.
The English-language debut of one of Japan's most talented contemporary writers, selling over 650,000 copies there, Convenience Store Woman is the heartwarming and surprising story of thirty-six-year-old Tokyo resident Keiko Furukura. Keiko has never fit in, neither in her family, nor in school, but when at the age of eighteen she begins working at the Hiiromachi branch of "Smile Mart," she finds peace and purpose in her life. In the store, unlike anywhere else, she understands the rules of social interaction--many are laid out line by line in the store's manual--and she does her best to copy the dress, mannerisms, and speech of her colleagues, playing the part of a "normal" person excellently, more or less. Managers come and go, but Keiko stays at the store for eighteen years. It's almost hard to tell where the store ends and she begins. Keiko is very happy, but the people close to her, from her family to her coworkers, increasingly pressure her to find a husband, and to start a proper career, prompting her to take desperate action...
A brilliant depiction of an unusual psyche and a world hidden from view, Convenience Store Woman is an ironic and sharp-eyed look at contemporary work culture and the pressures to conform, as well as a charming and completely fresh portrait of an unforgettable heroine.