Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata, translated by Ginny Tapley Takemori [in Booklist]
In nursery school, Keiko pragmatically suggested that the dead bird in the park could become a grilled treat for her father. In primary school, she ended a forbidden brawl by hitting a boy on the head with a spade. She stopped a teacher’s hysterics by yanking down her skirt and knickers. Despite having “a normal family,” Keiko “was a rather strange child” who learned quiet detachment to avoid further trouble.
At 18, she is “reborn as a convenience store worker” at a newly opened Smile Mart. Donning a uniform, learning the manual, and mimicking her coworkers enable Keiko to become “a normal cog in society.” Eighteen years later, she remains a top-performing employee, comfortably aware that being a part-time convenience worker “is the only way [she] can be a normal person.” At 36, however, her being a single woman in a dead-end job elicits worry and judgment from family and acquaintances. To deflect unwanted meddling, Keiko “adopts” an arrogant wastrel with both comical and bittersweet results.
The prestigious Akutagawa Prize-winning Sayaka Murata, herself a part-time “convenience store woman,” makes a dazzling English-language debut in a crisp translation by Ginny Tapley Takemori, rich in scathingly entertaining observations on identity, perspective, and the suffocating hypocrisy of “normal” society.
Review: “Fiction,” Booklist, May 1, 2018
Published: 2016 (Japan), 2018 (United States)