Convenience Store Woman is an absurd novel; it’s also a novel that makes a lot of sense.
This book is so strange that I could’ve easily disliked it (*cough* My Year of Rest and Relaxation *cough*), but I didn’t. In fact, I actively enjoyed this peculiar little novel. Like its protagonist, Convenience Store Woman is a book that is preoccupied with a very specific microcosm: work. What work means for those who engage in it, what work entails, how work affects workers—in this case, the novel’s protagonist, Keiko. But I also think Murata deftly examines how the microcosm of the convenience store Keiko works in intersects with these macrocosmic forces acting on her: expectations to marry, to get a Proper Job, to have some kind of larger purpose in her life. And what makes Keiko so fascinating is precisely the fact that she resists all these macrocosmic forces, not even consciously, but simply because she doesn’t feel their pull.
Murata’s novel is one whose premise could be characterized as kooky or weird or far-fetched, but I don’t think Murata is aiming for a realism here, at least not a traditional one anyway. Her story works kind of like magical realism does: it goes outside the bounds of what is considered “realistic” to make something that’s (ostensibly) within those bounds more clearly understood. And I think regardless of how you feel about this novel, it’s a memorable one. It was certainly memorable for me; to my surprise, this strange but believable story engrossed me.