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Convenience Store Woman

Meet Keiko.

Keiko is 36 years old. She's never had a boyfriend and worked in the same supermarket for eighteen years. Keiko's family wishes she'd get a proper job. Her friends wonder why she won't get married. But Keiko knows what makes her happy, and she will not let anyone come between her and her convenience store…

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 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 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.

Editorial Reviews:

"In Sayaka Murata's Convenience Store Woman, a small, elegant and deadpan novel, a woman senses that society finds her strange, so she culls herself from the herd before anyone else can do it . . . Casts a fluorescent spell . . . A thrifty and offbeat exploration of what we must each leave behind to participate in the world."―Dwight Garner, New York Times

"Alienation gets deliciously perverse treatment in Convenience Store Woman . . . Murata herself spent years as a convenience store employee. And one pleasure of this book is her detailed portrait of how such a place actually works. Yet the book's true brilliance lies in Murata's way of subverting our expectations . . . With bracing good humour. . . Murata celebrates the quiet heroism of women who accept the cost of being themselves."―John Powers, NPR "Fresh Air."

"The novel borrows from Gothic romance in its pairing of the human and the alluringly, dangerously not. It is a love story, in other words, about a misfit and a store . . . Keiko's self-renunciations reveal the book to be a kind of grim post-capitalist reverie: she is an anti-Bartleby, abandoning any shred of identity outside of her work . . . It may make readers anxious, but the book itself is tranquil―dreamy, even―rooting for its employee-store romance from the bottom of its synthetic heart."―Katy Waldman, New Yorker

"Keiko, a defiantly oddball 36-year-old woman, has worked in a dead-end job as a convenience store cashier in Tokyo for half her life. She lives alone and has never been in a romantic relationship or even had sex. And she is perfectly happy with all of it . . . Written in plain-spoken prose, the slim volume focuses on a character who in many ways personifies a demographic panic in Japan."―Motoko Rich, New York Times (profile)

"As intoxicating as a sake mojito, Sayaka Murata's Convenience Store Woman is a rare treat: a literary prize-winner that's also a page-turner. Its heroine, Keiko, is an 18-year-old Tokyo misfit who yearns to be like everyone else. Then she lands a job at Hiiromachi Station Smile Mart, one of those enchanting Japanese wonderlands that are equal parts 7-Eleven, McDonald's, and Starbucks. As Keiko finds liberation in the self-effacing rituals of being a good convenience store employee, Murata offers a smart, deliciously perverse look at everything from how mini-marts actually work to the rules, many of them invisible, that ultimately define our identity. And because the book is bracingly brief, you can down it in one afternoon gulp."―John Powers, Vogue

"It's the novel's cumulative, idiosyncratic poetry lingers, attaining a weird, fluorescent kind of beauty all of its own. The world of the store with its dented cans and rice balls, barcodes and scanners, and Keiko's shivery, unashamedly sensual response as a 'convenience store animal' who can 'hear the store's voice telling me what it wanted, how it wanted to be.' The book's title is more than perfect, for this, you soon realize, is a love story. Keiko's love story: the convenience is all hers."―Julie Myerson, Guardian

"Murata draws a poignant portrait of what happens when a woman's oppression meets a man's grievance―and one of them has to give . . . It seems all too fitting that Murata's disaffected man, Shiraha, lashes out at a cold world with demands and reproach. At the same time, the female narrator quietly seeks out a space within that unwelcoming world where she can contribute. To anyone living in the world today, in Japan or the U.S., it should come as little surprise that the sharpest consequences for a man's pain and a woman's pain both fall, in the end, on women."―Claire Fallon, Huffington Post

"Brilliant, witty, and sweet in ways that recall Amélie and Shopgirl. Keiko, a Tokyo woman in her 30s, finds her calling as a checkout girl at a national convenience store chain called Smile Mart: Quirky Keiko, who has never fit in, can finally pretend to be a normal person. Her story of conforming for convenience (literally) is one that women all over the world know all too well, as is her family's pressure to get married and settle down. Still, Murata's sparkly writing and knack for odd, beautiful details are totally her own."―Vogue, "13 Books to Thrill, Entertain, and Sustain You This Summer."

"An exhilaratingly weird and funny Japanese novel about a long-term convenience store employee. Unsettling and totally unpredictable―my copy is now heavily underlined."―Sally Rooney, Guardian

"A quiet masterpiece that offers a refreshing perspective on human nature through the disarming observations of a social misfit . . . Seldom has a narrator been so true to a lack of self, and so triumphantly other. This strange heroism may explain why the differences between Keiko Furukura and the reader gradually dwindle, and we come to perceive just how tenuous and unconsidered our own attitudes and constructs are, how curious our claims of personhood, and how odd and improbable our own story."―David Wright, Seattle Times

"Reading Convenience Store Woman―a spare, quietly brilliant novel about an offbeat woman whose life revolves around the convenience store she works at―is like being lulled into a soft calm . . . Though she feels like the odd one out, her frank appraisal of the world's systems reveals everyone else's absurdity. Why has society at large agreed to live by these arbitrary rules? And why does everyone else treat Keiko's rejection of these rules like a threat?"―BuzzFeed

"This magical little book performs this neat accordion track in sentences so clean and crisp it's like they were laminated and placed before you, one at a time, in a well-Windex'd cooler. And thus Sayaka Murata has written the 7-11 Madame Bovary . . . This is a love story. Only the love affair here is between a woman and the convenience store in which she works."―John Freeman, Literary Hub

"Sayaka Murata's novel Convenience Store Woman playfully illustrates the daily routines and ruminations of an eccentric Tokyo salesclerk."―Elle

"A personal favourite. . . The prose is as crisp as is the aesthetic of [Japan]"―Lauren Christensen, CBS This Morning

"Knock-you-off-your-feet good, sucking you wholesale into the strange brain of its narrator, Keiko Furukura, and carrying you quickly through a smartly constructed plot . . . Reading Convenience Store Woman feels like being beamed down onto a foreign planet, which turns out to be your own . . . May we buy out bookstores' stocks of Convenience Store Woman, and yell Sayaka Murata's name from the rooftops."―Alison Tate Lewis, Electric Literature

"Sayaka Murata's brilliant Convenience Store Woman can be read as a meditation on the world of personal branding . . . It has been seen as a Gothic romance between a 'misfit and a store' and as a fictionalized account of how young people in Japan are increasingly giving up on sex, to name just two readings. It's a sign of excellent literature to be able to effortlessly hold up multiple interpretations simultaneously. Murata's book is no exception: It's all of these things while also rendering an artful grotesque of modern personal branding."―The Millions

"Convenience Store Woman subverts the status quo with the lowliest of settings and the most unlikely warrior. Cunning and seductive . . . [it] joins the literature of refusal, along with Melville's 'Bartleby the Scrivener' (the clerk who 'prefers not to'), Beckett's minimal humans, who dwell in trash bins and sand heaps, and Kafka's hapless office workers, who try to remain invisible while being watched . . . Murata's comedy brilliantly reverses the notion that we lose ourselves as cogs in a machine. In anonymity, Keiko slips the knot of the convention. For her, the rescue is in the catastrophe."―Laurie Stone, Women's Review of Books

"A novel that proves sylphlike; spare in its contents, with a masterfully deceptive comic veneer that keeps the reader turning the page. Even with peculiar and macabre elements aplenty . . . Murata has penned an unlikely feminist tale that unflinchingly depicts the social constructs of being a single woman."―Zyzzyva

"Can a 36-year-old woman find happiness working at a 'Smile Mart' for the rest of her life? That's the sneakily subversive proposition floated in this sly little novel."―Newsday

"Quirky, memorable . . . A neat and pleasing fable about the virtues and pleasures of conformity that could only be Japanese."―Times (UK)

"Engaging . . . A sure-fire hit of the summer."―Irish Times

"Keiko Furukura loves her job. In fact, she started at the Smile Mart when she was 18, and now she's 36, and there's nowhere else she'd rather be . . . Despite her complete lack of normal emotions and responses, she's always trying to be more like other people, which is why she succumbs to the pressure to find a man and settle down. She finds him at the convenience store, but once she's married, they make her leave the job, and that's when the trouble starts."―WYPR, "Weekly Reader."

"Convenience Store Woman may seem like a light and easy summer read about a Japanese shopgirl but is actually a cutting commentary on the pressure society puts on its citizens, particularly single women . . . Offers a sharp observation into this small slice of Japanese life."―South China Morning Post

"A deceptively breezy novel . . . The book is a sly commentary on social pressures for conformity in Japan, told through the engrossing first-person character portrait of Keiko Furukura . . . Convenience Store Woman, though spare, holds outsized lessons about worth, work, expectations, and contentment that translate well into our changing U.S. economy. Keiko takes the reader through an eye-opening and unconventional argument about what does―and doesn't―make a happy life."―St. Louis Post-Dispatch

"Deceivingly short and plainly written . . . The full extent of Keiko's strangeness, with her sharp edges and moral ambiguity, surprises us, making this a brave book and Murata an unflinching, exciting writer."―Daily Californian

"A slim, spare and difficult-to-define little book, both very funny and achingly sad in turns, told from the point of view of a woman who's trying to find her place in the world . . . This empathetic novel is also a touching exploration of loneliness and alienation, feelings and conditions that, for better or for worse, can be recognized by people worldwide."―Book Reporter

"A refreshing narrator with a fascinating voice . . . Together, Murata and her protagonist lead a novel that is delightfully candid and unexpectedly empowering, a feminist tale that blooms inside the small world of a 24-hour convenience store . . . This is Keiko's very own hero's journey, a brilliantly crafted one that defies standards for women."―Harvard Crimson

"With its understated prose and frequently deadpan narration, many moments of Convenience Store Woman are simultaneously sweet and darkly funny . . . This slim novel [has] a startling heft . . . Possessed by a weird, marvellous momentum."―New York Journal of Books

"Full of wisdom about our modern age . . . Murata's brief, whimsical, deeply insightful and pleasantly thought-provoking novel reminds us what torture social life can be for those too honest and authentic to be deluded by its trappings."―PopMatters

"Murata's strange and quirky novel was a runaway hit in Japan, and Ginny Tapley Takemori's English translation introduces it to a new group of readers―a slim, entrancing read that can be consumed in one sitting."―Passport

"An achievement . . . Murata's just-below-the-surface acerbity is most skillfully deployed in examining how what we do distorts what we are . . . The result is more than just brief, breezy, and pithy―it looks at how extraordinarily frightening ordinary is turning out to be."―Arts Fuse

"Unlike the youthfully airy heroines in the novels of writer Banana Yoshimoto, Keiko is almost a Kafkaesque character, deadly earnest in absurd circumstances . . . Murata shines in describing the setting―the 'pristine aquarium'―that is Keiko's sole link to existence. In smooth, lucid prose, the convenience store comes to life in its inner workings and sounds, from the tinkle of the door chime to the beeps of the bar code scanner and the rattle of bottles in the refrigerator."―Japan Times

"A sweet, charming, and insightful book about comfort zones and the pressure to conform."―HelloGiggles

"The character of Furukura is a delight. She is original and charming but never gimmicky or twee . . . Too accomplished to boil down to a single message, but this seems to be one idea that runs through it. People say many things―some true, some misguided, some calculating and cruel. This is an unavoidable part of living in a society. The challenge is to listen past those voices and balance their demands with whatever higher calling we hear beyond."―Nippon.com

"Murata's slim and stunning Akutagawa Prize-winning novel follows 36-year-old Keiko Furukura, who has been working at the same convenience store for the last 18 years, outlasting eight managers and countless customers and coworkers . . . Murata's smart and sly novel, her English-language debut, is a critique of the expectations and restrictions placed on single women in their 30s. This is a moving, funny, and unsettling story about how to be a 'functioning adult' in today's world."―Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"The prestigious Akutagawa Prize-winning 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."―Booklist (starred review)

"A sly take on the modern work culture and social conformism, told through one woman's 18-year tenure as a convenience store employee . . . Murata provides deceptively sharp commentary on the narrow social slots people―particularly women―are expected to occupy and how those who deviate can inspire bafflement, fear, or anger in others . . . Murata skillfully navigates the line between the book's wry and weighty concerns and ensures readers will never conceive of the 'pristine aquarium' of a convenience store in quite the same way. A unique and unexpectedly revealing English language debut."―Kirkus Reviews

"Murata's writing, nicely rendered by Takemori's translation, uses the characters of Keiko and Shiraha to deliver a thought-provoking commentary on the meaning of conforming to society's expectations. While Murata's novel focuses on life in Japanese culture, her storytelling will resonate with all people and experiences."―Library Journal

"Convenience Store Woman is a gem of a book. Quirky, deadpan, poignant, and quietly profound, it is a gift to anyone who has ever felt at odds with the world―and if we were truly being honest, I suspect that would be most of us."―Ruth Ozeki, author of A Tale for the Time Being

"What a weird and wonderful and deeply satisfying book this is. Sayaka Murata is an utterly unique and revolutionary voice. I tore through Convenience Store Woman with great delight."―Jami Attenberg, New York Times bestselling author of The Middlesteins and All Grown Up

"A darkly comic, deeply unsettling examination of contemporary life, alienation, capitalism, identity, conformity. We've all been to this convenience store, whether it's in Japan or somewhere else."―Viet Thanh Nguyen, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Sympathizer

"This is a story about what's normal and not, a drama played on a stage so violently plain it becomes as vivid and surprising as an alien planet. I loved Convenience Store Woman: its brevity, its details, its opinions about life."―Robin Sloan, author of Mr Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore

"I picked up this novel on a trip to Japan and couldn't put it down. A haunting, dark, and often hilarious take on society's expectations of the single woman. As an extra bonus, it totally transformed my experience of going to convenience stores in Tokyo."―Elif Batuman, author of The Idiot

"Convenience Store Woman is a mighty fine book, completely charming. Sayaka Murata is a wonderful writer."―Rabih Alameddine, author of An Unnecessary Woman

"Instructions: Open book. Consume contents. Feel charmed, disturbed, and weirdly in love. Do not discard."―Jade Chang, author of The Wangs Vs the World

"Murata creates an original and surreal world in the most unlikely places. Furukawa, the convenience store woman, is a strange, complex, gripping protagonist who inadvertently propels her own story forth through a series of subtle actions. Yet, through these actions and the spareness of the author's prose, we see what a master Murata truly is. This book is not only readable but also fun, thought-provoking, outrageous, and outrageously funny. It is sure to be a standout of the year."―Weike Wang, author of Chemistry

"This novel made me laugh. It was the first time I laughed in this way: it was absurd, comical, cute . . . audacious, and precise. It was overwhelming."―Hiromi Kawakami, author of The Nakano Thrift Shop

"Witty, wily, and astonishingly sharp, Convenience Store Woman proves that the deepest gouges can come from the lightest touch."―Lisa McInerney, author of The Glorious Heresies

"Convenience Store Woman is snarky and tender. It shows a woman trying to puzzle out how to be normal. This brilliant book will resonate with all of us who find life a little strange."―Rowan Hisayo Buchanan, author of Harmless Like You

"I think the riskiest kind of novel is the one that tries to rescue us from mundane existence―by taking a closer look at mundane existence . . . In this context, it is easy to say that Murata-san's novel is a major breakthrough. Convenience Store Woman is not an explosion of candour, but it manages to both be cool to the touch and have depths of warmth in presenting a heroine who feels removed from the world around her. This is a fine high wire act to walk. One of the finest I have seen in a long time from so young a writer."―John Freeman, Literary Hub

"A hilarious novel . . . Convenience Store Woman mocks the culture of work, the employee's devotion to their patron saint, and pokes fun at the conservative mindset. For what is a young woman worth if she has neither professional ambition nor a desire to get married?"―Marie-France (France)

"A portrait of the challenge of being different in an ultra-policed society that ostracizes anyone who deviates even slightly from the norm . . . a bittersweet satire."―Livres-Hebro (France)

"A love story pulled out of the deep-freeze shelves of the heart . . . brilliant . . . not a word too many, nor one too few . . . true love is the simple and beautiful moral of this unusual yet uplifting story."―Die Zeit (Germany)

"This work merely describes the tiny world of a small box―a convenience store . . . yet it packs all the appeal of a [long] novel. In all my ten-plus years on the panel of judges, this is the first time one of the shortlisted works has had me laughing. And somehow, that laugh was charged with a profound sense of irony. Bravo Murata-san!"―Amy Yamada

"I was really amazed by Convenience Store Woman and the particular reality it exquisitely portrays . . . [It] minutely translates the sadness, anguish, grief, grumbles, fateful actions etc. of someone who is incapable of uttering the right words, adding layers of details and spinning them into a story . . . I am sincerely delighted that such a novel has come into being."―Ryu Murakami

"Choosing to give your novel a narrator who is not normal, someone who is aware that there is something strange about herself is not easy. Flaunting strangeness as a privilege sometimes repels the reader. But Convenience Store Woman skilfully evades this reaction. When the protagonist, a social outcast, is placed within the box of the artificially normalized convenience store, we begin to vividly see the strangeness of the people in the world outside."―Yoko Ogawa

Sayaka Murata

The Author

One of the most celebrated of the new generation of Japanese writers, Sayaka Murata, has won the prestigious Akutagawa Prize and the Gunzo, Noma, and Mishima Yukio Prizes. Her story, 'A Clean Marriage', was featured in Granta 127 Japan. She is 36 years old and works part-time in a convenience store.

The Translator

Ginny Tapley Takemori has translated fiction by more than a dozen early modern and contemporary Japanese writers. Her translation of Sayaka Murata's Akutagawa prizewinning novel Convenience Store Woman was one of the New Yorker's best books of 2018, Foyle's Book of the Year 2018. It was shortlisted for the Indies Choice Award and Best Translated Book Award. Sayaka Murata's Earthlings (October 2020) has already been named one of Time's 'must-read' books of 2020. Her translation of Kyoko Nakajima's Naoki prizewinning The Little House was published in February 2019, and Things Remembered. Things Forgotten, a short-story collection by the same author, co-translated with Ian MacDonald, is due in spring 2021).

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Sayaka Murata
Granta Books
Year of publication
17 September 2019
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