Just yesterday I finished Convenience Store Woman by Murata Sayaka (Goodreads link). I loved it!

At 163 pages, it’s short and punchy. Keiko is 36 years old, and has worked at a convenience store for 18 years. She finds humans baffling, and navigating society difficult. But in store, there’s a rule for every situation. It’s an environment she knows intimately. Here, she feels truly at home.

While Keiko is happy, everyone around her sees an ageing woman stuck in a dead-end job. Will she never get married and have kids? As the pressure from family and friends grows, she begins looking for a way out. There’s this loser at the store who can’t even hold down this simplest of jobs. Perhaps…

The story is trenchant and fiercely feminist. Murata makes great use of Keiko’s personality traits (I’m reading them as asexual and autistic, but I could be wrong about the latter) to highlight the inconsistency and absurdity of societal norms. The book’s Japanese title is “Konbini ningen” - “Convenience store person”, according to Wikipedia. The gender-neutral title seems much more appropriate.

Keiko is our narrator throughout the book, and I immediately took a liking to her. Murata’s language is simple, and the storytelling is masterful. I enjoyed this work as an audiobook, which took about three hours. Highly recommended!