A Review of Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata

Image via Amazon

Image via Amazon

Hazel Smith, Writer

Sayaka Murata’s Convenience Store Woman is a powerful and impactful novel about social expectations, and more importantly, what it feels like to not conform to them. Our main character, Keiko, is 36 years old and has been working at the same convenience store since she was 18. As we learn more about her backstory, Keiko’s struggles with fitting in are revealed. She describes the social pressures she faces after working at the same job for the majority of her life, as well as the stigma surrounding her absence of a partner. Despite concerns from her family members, Keiko is content with her life, enjoying the predictability of the store. However, there is also an eerie quality to Murata’s writing and the story she tells. Murata does an excellent job at examining capitalism in our modern society, as well as the expectations of the single woman. 

Because Keiko struggles to fit in, she molds herself and the way she acts around the people around her. Keiko describes that her “present self is formed almost completely of the people around [her].” The convenience store gives Keiko instructions on how to act, from the phrases she uses to her clothing. These unsurprising and stagnant qualities of the convenience store give her peace of mind. Keiko feels at home in the buzz and bustle of the Hiiromachi Station Smile Mart and doesn’t want to leave, despite what society and her family expect of her. At age 36, Keiko has never been in a romantic relationship and has never had a job other than a convenience store. Her sister and the rest of her family constantly ask her questions about her romantic life and when she will find a “real job.” For 18 years Keiko’s life has been stagnant and pleasant for her, and she doesn’t want anything to change, despite what others think.

When a new employee, Shiraha, is hired at the convenience store, Keiko begins to realize many things about the society she lives in and what her family thinks about her. Shiraha represents many of the sexist ideas that exist in our modern society. Along with telling the manager that he only wanted to work at the convenience store to find a wife, he also constantly refers to the way life is “just like it was in the Stone Age.” He describes his belief that men have it much harder than women, saying that men are “victimized” for failing to support women in their homes. Despite his very sexist ideas, Keiko decides that it would benefit both of them to pretend that Shiraha and her were in a relationship. Keiko soon realizes that when others think she is in a relationship, they respect her much more and see her differently. Overall, this book is a fascinating commentary on the expectations and pressures of the single woman in today’s society, and also greatly portrays what it feels like to not quite fit in.