You can add to this list...of...first-rate new novels ... one pleasure of this book is her detailed portrait of how such a place [a convenience store] actually works. Yet the book's true brilliance lies in Murata's way of subverting our expectations.
It's not simply that Keiko finds liberation, even happiness, by becoming a cog in the capitalist machine, an unsettling idea when you think about it. Murata also makes us see how the family members who find her love of the store's rituals strange are themselves trapped within a set of rules - dress this way, don't talk like that, get married and have kids. But unlike her, they—and maybe we—don't know it.
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. Or is horror the more accurate genre? ... One eerie achievement of Convenience Store Woman is that the reader is never entirely sure how to think about Keiko. Is she monstrous? Brave and eccentric? ... Murata’s flattened prose has a bodega-after-11-p.m. quality: it feels bathed in garish, fluorescent light. If Keiko comes off as frightening and robotic, so does the entire universe in which her story unfurls ... But, for all the disturbance and oddity in Convenience Store Woman, the book dares the reader to interpret it as a happy story about a woman who has managed to craft her own 'good life.' ”
In Sayaka Murata’s Convenience Store Woman, a small, elegant and deadpan novel ... [a]n issue Murata leaves hanging, tantalizingly, is how deranged Keiko might or might not be. Clearly she longs for an authoritarian hand on her shoulder; she wants to know, at all times, what to do. ('Hai!') But in delineating her, Murata flirts with genuine darkness ... Convenience Store Woman is short, and it casts a fluorescent spell. Like a convenience store, it is chilly; it makes you wish you had brought a sweater. At the same time, it’s the kind of performance that leaves you considering the difference between exploring interesting topics and actually being interesting ... I have mixed feelings about Convenience Store Woman, but there is no doubt that it is a thrifty and offbeat exploration of what we must each leave behind to participate in the world.
The main character, Keiko, is an a-sexual who struggles with mental illness ... The other main character is an Incel who sees his life through a bleak and fatalistic neo-Darwinian lens. With many other writers, this could have fallen flat, come off as preachy, dreary, or pretentious, but Murata's skillful weaving of humor and humanity make this a special book. She doesn’t go the cliché route by turning the narrative into a love story ... this book doesn't follow a trite 'love conquers all' plot. Despite that, I found this to be a very American story ... I love the existentialism that permeates the story ... I found it very exciting to see the working-class novel turned on its head. For a lot of western civilization, the idea of working a low-paying job isn't a story they usually want to read about ... But I found it to be uplifting and inspiring.
Sayaka Murata’s brilliant Convenience Store Woman can be read as a meditation on the world of personal branding ... It’s a sign of excellent literature to be able to effortlessly hold up multiple interpretations at once. Murata’s book is no exception: It’s all of these things while also rendering an artful grotesque of modern personal branding ... That voice, with the flattened tone of a test of the emergency broadcast system, is a hallmark of the book ... This is perhaps Murata at her most subversive.
The narrative drive shifts readers to want to find out if being normal works for Keiko. And who is this Shiraha? He must have a past that caused him to be so negative toward anything that others consider normal. How does Keiko’s perception of normal change? ... Convenience Store Woman is a delightful, quick read, full of quirky and achingly not-quirky ('normal') characters. Humor abounds as the world’s absurdities are seen through Keiko’s eyes. I found myself wishing for more of it all.
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. Convenience Store Woman closely observes the inevitable failures of a society to embrace all within it, and the contrasting ways disenfranchised men and women manage to cope ... Through the eyes of perceptive, dispassionate Keiko, the ways in which we’re all commodified and reduced to our functions become clear.
It is not a realistic novel and not, as I see it, a parable or allegory (thank God). For one thing, it is very funny ... The book is hard to define; let’s just say that it is a weird social commentary, an exercise in hyperbole, a paean to order, and, not least, a celebration of the complex design that goes unnoticed by all who step into the humble convenience store.
...[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 ... Though Murata never explicitly says so, Keiko Furukura may have autism spectrum disorder. It provides her character an especially honest voice and an altogether fresh tilt on known topics ... Convenience Store Woman, though spare, holds outsized lessons about worth, work, expectations, and contentment that translate well into our changing U.S. economy.
In this translation, Murata’s prose is predictably simplistic and repetitive, as routine as the rhythm of Keiko’s life. The protagonist often muses on stagnation, and there is a stagnant quality here, an odd sensation of always being somewhere in the middle of the story, even as its final pages approach. To execute this static of a world requires care. It’s a stylistic choice that, like the novel’s concept, risks tedium ... But this flaw can be forgiven, given the ample rewards of this peculiarly jaunty narrative. Convenience Store Woman is an achievement — a satiric look at a mind that is intent on remaining empty.
This, Murata’s 10th novel, has been a big hit both in Japan and worldwide, and it isn’t hard to see why. It’s not flawless: Shiraha seems to be more of a plot enabler than fully realised character and, though Murata’s gloriously nutty deadpan prose and even more nuttily likable narrator are irresistible, I’d have liked more on her latent psychopathic streak ... But these are minor quibbles and perhaps even missing the point. For it’s the novel’s cumulative, idiosyncratic poetry that lingers, attaining a weird, fluorescent kind of beauty all of its own.
Marx’s theories on work and alienation are beneath the surface of Keiko’s story, though the novel is never preachy on its themes.
Instead Murata uses her oddball narrator to deliver quips at an impressive rate about so-called normal social behavior ... Murata excels at highlighting the human need to rationalise things we don’t understand ... Ginny Tapley Takemori’s skilful translation captures the balance between the quirky and the profound that propels the novel to its rather abrupt end. This is a story that readers could easily stay with all over again were it to be longer. It is a small complaint for a book that invites us into its world of social normalcy and refuses a convenient exit. Irasshaimasé! to a sure-fire hit of the summer.
Convenience Store Woman is 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 (as when a young Furukura wants to grill and eat a dead bird she finds on the ground), Murata has penned an unlikely feminist tale that unflinchingly depicts the social constructs of being a single woman.
Convenience Store Woman is full of wisdom about our modern age, but like any wise book it dwells more on making prescient observations than on offering any answers. ... Murata succeeds in beautifully depicting its many aspects in more profound depth than readers might expect ... deeply insightful and pleasantly thought-provoking.
It is often delightfully unsettling to watch Keiko strive to be a normal person when she is outside the confines of the store itself. With its understated prose and frequently deadpan narration, many moments of Convenience Store Woman are simultaneously sweet and darkly funny ... The repetitive cycles in Keiko’s convenience store routine are infused with a joyful exaltation that gives this slim novel a startling heft. The most mundane moments in Convenience Store Woman are possessed by a weird, marvelous momentum. Instead of wondering how Keiko will change over the course of the narrative, readers may end up hoping that, like her daily routine at the convenience store, Keiko, too, will stay the same.
...a compelling novel about conformity in society, and the baffling rules applied in work and life. Murata's protagonist is likable, if a bit baffling herself. Ginny Tapley Takemori's translation feels just right for the slightly off-kilter reality of this thought-provoking story ... This brief, brisk novel is an engrossing adventure into an unusual mind. Is it a subversive, satiric criticism of societal norms? Is it a surrealist take on extreme workplace culture? Or simply the perspective of a woman wired a little bit differently? Murata holds the reader rapt, wondering what Keiko will do next.
The prestigious Akutagawa Prize–winning Murata, herself a part-time 'convenience store woman,' makes a dazzling English-language debut in a crisp translation by Takemori, rich in scathingly entertaining observations on identity, perspective, and the suffocating hypocrisy of 'normal' society.
...[a] slim and stunning Akutagawa Prize–winning novel ... 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.
A sly take on modern work culture and social conformism ... Murata provides deceptively sharp commentary on the narrow social slots people—particularly women—are expected to occupy ... Murata skillfully navigates the line between the book’s wry and weighty concerns ... A unique and unexpectedly revealing English language debut.