cover image Convenience Store Woman

Convenience Store Woman

Sayaka Murata, trans. from the Japanese by Ginny Tapley Takemori. Grove, $20 (176p) ISBN 978-0-8021-2825-6

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. Keiko, who has a history of strange impulses—wanting to grill and eat a dead bird, pulling down a hysterical teacher’s pants to get her to be quiet—applied to work at the Hiiromachi Station Smile Mart on a whim. Where someone else might find the expected behavior for convenience store workers arbitrary and strict, Keiko thrives under such clear direction, finally finding a way to be normal. In fact, she thinks of herself as two Keikos: her real self, who has existed since she was born, and “convenience-store-worker-me.” But normalcy is not static, as Keiko discovers. The older she gets, and the further she drifts from milestones like having a “real” job, marrying, and having children, the more her friends and family push her towards change. She strikes a sham marriage deal with a lazy and shifty ex-coworker, which, though it finally makes her “normal” in the eyes of others, throws her entire life and psyche into turmoil. 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. Agent: Kohei Hattori, the English Agency. (June)