I first heard about the quirky Convenience Store Woman last year and knew I had to read it. I actually bought it with a voucher I got for my birthday in the autumn. Then I looked at the receipt and realised I’d spent £13 on a book with only 163 pages. I took it back. Luckily I spotted it in Sainsbury’s recently for a far more sensible £3.99.
Convenience Store Woman is the story of Keiko. Keiko is 36-years-old and unmarried. She doesn’t quite fit in. She has been working at the same convenience store for 18 years. Her parents think she should get a proper job and her friends think she should be married, but Keiko is happy at her convenience store.
Being a store worker, Keiko understands her responsibilities and how she should speak to people. Being a store worker is a role she plays and she is unable to play any other role.
Convenience Store Woman is told from Keiko’s own point of view. It is likely that she is autistic, although this is never mentioned. She is aware that she has problems with understanding people, but doesn’t really understand the depths of those problems. When people are rude to her or try to take advantage of her, she doesn’t realise and is just grateful for the advice they are giving.
Set in Japan, and translated from the Japanese, this is a very funny little book. It also has a lot of detail on the way the convenience store is run. Understanding Keiko’s obsession with the smooth running of the store is part of understanding Keiko as a character. She is a little bit like Eleanor Oliphant or Don from The Rosie Project in her naivety about life.
As it happens, I do some work to do with convenience stores in my freelance work, so this is particularly interesting to me. Keiko’s convenience store is not like an old-fashioned British corner shop. But it is still recognisable to us Brits who have shopped in one of the more modern convenience stores.
If you’re looking for a quirky and funny read, you will love Convenience Store Woman.