A convenience store is a forcibly normalised environment.
I came across this book on Claire’s YouTube channel when she was mentioning the books she had accumulated. The title did seem odd and I wanted to read a Japanese fiction after my tryst with ‘Men Without Women’ by Murakami.
I must say, this book has me stunned! I have loved each and every part of the book. I have sympathised with Keiko and applauded at the zeal! This is also one of the books I have come to like just for its characters.
I own a pre-release review copy. This one does not have a cover. However, on Goodreads I can see a beautiful blue cover with a rice ball doll face on a plate. I immediately was able to relate to the cover from the story inside. I wish I had the paperback with the cover but I guess I can always buy a copy to gift to others!
This is my most favourite part of the book. There are two characters in the book, Keiko being the main protagonist. Keiko has always been a strange child. She would like to grill a dead bird she found in the garden and serve it to her dad unlike other kids who would cry over and bury it, making a memorable epitaph. Keiko grows up to be a robotic, emotionally inert human being who does not find her ways strange. It only seems natural to her. In spite of that, she just wants to fit in. She is now 36 years old, still trying to fit in.
Shiraha is another strange character in the book who enters a little before the second half of the book. He is a man of 35 who does not have a job but understands that in the society a man is expected to have a job marry a beautiful woman and produce cute children. He is in the quest of finding himself a wife. He is a man forever quoting stone age and its parallels to today’s world. His mannerisms are enough to drive every woman away except Keiko.
This is not a love story!
The book has my attention right from the beginning.
A convenience store is a world of sound. From the tinkle of the door chime to the voices of TV celebrities advertising new products over the in-store cable network, to the calls of the store workers, the beeps of the bar code scanner, the rustle of customers picking up items and placing them in baskets, and the clacking of heels walking around the store. It all blends into the convenience store sound that ceaselessly caresses my eardrums.
The author continues to describe each and every movement in the convenience store with epic talent, making you fall in love with the place immediately, filling the store with life. Keiko then goes back to her childhood and tells us about her life as a child. With no connection to human emotions or understanding, Keiko soon finds herself to be the outcast in the school. Her mother is often called in but Keiko never understands what she is doing wrong. How could pulling a teacher’s pants down to make her stop screaming ever be wrong!
Everyone in Keiko’s family is worried about her. She turns 18 and joins College but to earn some extra cash she soon picks up a job at a newly opened convenience store.
She learns from manual as to how to conduct herself. She even copies a bit of all her colleagues to resemble a regular normal person, not letter anyone know her true inner self.
I am currently made up of 30 percent Mrs. Izumi, 30 percent Sugawara, 20 percent the manager, and the rest absorbed from past colleagues such as Sasaki, who left six months ago, and Okasaki, who was our supervisor until a year ago.
Days turn into years and she is 36 now. 18 years into the job she has seen 8 store managers, one gone after the other. Soon she starts feeling out of place. But as Shiraha enters the store and her life, everything changes. Keiko figures out that she could be normal once she is with a man and Shiraha fits the bill. Shiraha on the other hand only needs a woman to take care of him so that the society leaves him alone.
It sounds like a good deal for both of them until Keiko leaves her job.
The content is fast paced, keeping you on your toes all the time. There are plenty of beautiful sentences to quote from in the book. The story seems like a regular girl meets Prince Charming and lives happily ever after but it is hardly so. Let me emphasise- it is not a love story!
What do I say about the language. A lot of them will say it was dry. But to me it completely fit the bill. The emotionally inert Keiko was given a voice like she would have. The sentences are short, well broken into. It is a delight to read.
I loved the cover enough to gift copies to my friends! The characters are strange but you will end up familiarising with them really well. The content is fast paced. The book is beautifully written. I am glad I came across this writing.
I wished there were more pages to read on Shiraha. Even if there aren’t more, I am not complaining. Keiko was a complete delight!
I absolutely loved the book. After a long time I can say this without a doubt!
Whom do I recommend this to
This book is for those who like experimental literature. Those interested in literature from different parts of the world are going to love this one from Japan!
My ears and eyes are important sensors to catch their every move and desire. Taking the utmost care not to cause he customer any discomfort by observing him or her too closely, I swiftly move my hands according to whatever signals I pick up.
I’m as much part of the store as the magazine racks or the coffee machine.