Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata
First line: A convenience store is a world of sounds.
Summary and Thoughts: In Japan, convenience stores are essential to the Japanese lifestyle. They are on every block, sometimes two facing each other. Keiko Furukura sees convenience stores to be a part of her as much as they are a part of Japan. Odd since birth, Keiko has always found trouble fitting in. She took everything literally and always seemed to get in trouble no matter what she did to correct her behavior. At the age of eighteen she started working part-time at a new convenience store in hopes to blend in to normal society. There she learns how to interact with people only as a convenience store worker. It’s also there that she learns to copy the clothing style and mannerisms of her coworkers. Eighteen years later she is still doing her usual routine much to the distaste of those around her, despite her being perfectly happy as a convenience store worker. In fact, she believes she can only live and breathe as a convenience store worker. An opportunity with an ex co-worker means she can finally pretend to please her family and friends’ wishes, but she’s not sure if she’s truly happy about it.
This was a quick read as it was small with only about 170 pages. It was also quick in that I didn’t want to put it down. I found the main character to be hilarious and relatable without her even trying to be. You can tell she is coded as an autistic character with a lot of self-awareness. She knows what it takes to be a normal person in society and that her odd behavior has made those around Keiko want her to be ‘cured’, but she can’t. I got frustrated along with her when some of her attempts where met with criticism. What is she supposed to do when no one is clear with her? This book also helped me understand Japanese cultural norms but also understand why someone like Furukura would be frustrated with what society thinks she should do. It was refreshing to see marriage not be the end or desirable goal. To me, this book was a good way to show that Japan still has some ways to go in terms of understanding and educating themselves about people with autism. For a quick read, I was able to learn so much and be entertained.
FYI: Main character has violent intrusive thoughts.