June 22, 2018
Quirky character…Japanese culture…finding your niche……conformity…
Genre/Categories: Contemporary Fiction, Japanese Culture, Conformity, Short Fiction
***This post contains Amazon affiliate links.
Keiko Furukura grows up labeled a “strange child,” and her parents worry about her ability to function in the real world and about her future success. While at university, Keiko begins a job at a local convenience store. After eighteen years, her parents and friends worry that she doesn’t have a real career and has never had a boyfriend. Even though Keiko is successful as a convenience store worker and enjoys her job, she feels the pressure to live up to her parents’ cultural expectations. What will she do?
In addition to an interesting character study, the story also provides readers a glimpse into the Japanese popular convenience store culture.
“What does society do with people who live on the edges who don’t pursue what others have declared as acceptable? Who don’t live according to the unwritten manual? Are they disposable and useless?”
Japanese Convenience Stores: Quirky characters striving to live their best lives interest me, and Keiko captured my heart. As we get to know Keiko as a convenience store worker, readers learn a bit about convenience stores (konbinis) in Japanese culture as a bonus. Different from a U. S. 7-Eleven Store, well-stocked Japanese convenience stores (konbinis) offer healthier prepared food, pride themselves on excellent customer service, and offer services not offered by a U.S. 7-Eleven. Here’s one link you can follow to find out more about Japanese Convenience Stores.
Quirky Character: Despite being labeled as a strange child, Keiko feels secure and safe at work, and she loves that all the workers are equal when they’re in their uniforms. The routine tasks of the store help her feel normal. She buys most of her meals at the convenience store and doesn’t know how to be normal outside of her work environment. Keiko is dedicated to her job and the sounds of the store comfort and calm her and become the soundtrack of her life.
It occurs to me that Keiko might fall on the autism spectrum (undiagnosed and not mentioned as a possibility in the story). Keiko knows she’s different from others and copies clothing styles, mannerisms, and speech patterns of her peers in smart, valiant, and innovative attempts to gain acceptance. Keiko loves her job as a convenience store worker and excels in the position (organization, stocking, customer service, selling, etc). Her job is everything to her. After eighteen years, her family and friends think she should get a real career or at least get married. Keiko earnestly and bravely attempts to meet their cultural expectations. Will she find happiness outside the comfort and security of the convenience store?
Unlikable Character: The only part of the story I am less than thrilled with is a certain male character (former employee in the convenience store) whom she “adopts.” I’m certain he’s an important symbol that we’d all have a great time discussing in a lit class! He goes beyond quirky and in my opinion is a creepy manipulator and opportunist. I’d love to hear the author expound on why she chose this character for her story.
Themes: Overall, I love Keiko and admire her self awareness and determination. Pressure to conform versus self fulfillment is a strong theme in this short fiction work. Days after reading the last page, I still think about her and wish her the best.
Recommended? Convenience Store Woman is recommended for readers who have lived in or are from Japan, for those who love a quirky character fighting against the odds, and for readers who might be looking for a short fiction read in translation.
My Rating: 4 Stars
Meet the Author, Sayaka Murata
Do you like reading about quirky characters? A few favs are Eleanor (Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine), Ginny (Ginny Moon), Ove (A Man Called Ove), Britt-Marie (Britt-Marie Was Here), and Frank (The Music Shop). Who are yours?
What are you reading this week?
Happy Reading Bookworms!
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~Denise J Hughes
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My Summer TBR
I’ll be updating my Summer TBR list as I complete each read, so check this link often!
(So far I’ve read a handful, and I’ve only abandoned one)
Links I Love:
More about summer reading for children in this link: The Ardent Biblio: How to Design a Summer Reading Program For Your Kids.
Next week, I’ll be revealing my most memorable and compelling character from my June reading.
Also, I hope to be reading The Ensemble and reviewing it soon. I’ve been #1 on the library hold list for at least 3 weeks, so it should be coming in any day.
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