Keiko Furukura had always been considered a strange child, and her parents always worried how she would get on in the real world, so when she takes on a job in a convenience store while at university, they are delighted for her. In the convenience store, she finds a predictable world. She feels comfortable in her life, but is aware that she is not living up to society’s expectations. When a similarly alienated but cynical and bitter young man comes to work in the store, he will upset Keiko’s contented stasis―but will it be for the better?
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.' ”
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.