Reviewed in India on 14 September 2019
Let’s see – what is considered “normal” for a girl in our society? Here are some thoughts that come to mind –
1) Obtain a “respectable” qualification by a certain age.
2) Get a “good” job, earn a decent income. Reach a certain level in your organization, within a certain time.
3) Marry a “suitable” boy, earning a decent income, by a certain age – Very Important requirement.
4) Have a certain number of children, by a certain age – Very Important requirement
5) Own your own house with a pre-defined period
Well, the list goes on and on. Society, relatives, neighbours, friends have pre-conceived notions of what is “right” for a woman. But…what happens when you don’t abide by society’s norms? What if you take your own sweet time to get married? If your job/career is not considered “good” enough, and your salary doesn’t meet society’s exacting standards? What if you exceed the “acceptable” age limit to bear a child – or (gasp!) you decide you don’t want a child at all? What if (super gasp!) your sexual orientation is different? Ahhh – then it is rightfully everyone’s business, isn’t it, and it is everyone’s duty to give advice/guidance to the woman, to point out what is right!
“Convenience Store Woman” is about Keiko Furukura, who has always been considered to be somewhat odd, in school and in college, not quite “fitting in” with the rest of the crowd. Her parents and sister love her dearly, and are thrilled when she gets a job at a convenience store, at the age of 18. The problem arises when Keiko continues to work at the store for the next 18 years, with no signs of a life partner in her life, no prospects of any promotion/progress in her career. In short, Keiko does not click ANY of the boxes for what is “right” and “normal” as per the standards in their society. When a rather strange boy enters Keiko’s life, her friends and family are ecstatic – at last Keiko will have a happy life! But – does Keiko really need this weird boy at all in her life – just to keep everyone happy? What if she is happy just the way she is, loves her work (and is very good at it!), and doesn’t need a partner, nor a high flying job?
Japanese society seems alarmingly similar to ours! Here are my two primary takeaways from this delightful little book, which I read in two days –
1) Never underestimate the power of a regular employment to give you an identity, to give you a daily routine to follow, to keep you emotionally stable – in short, to keep you happy, and to keep your life in order. You don’t have to be the CEO of your company, but the easy comradeship of your colleagues, the feeling that you are good at what you are doing (however humble that work may be), getting up at a particular time in the morning and getting ready, knowing that you are wanted at your workplace – all this is so, so important. If, like Keiko, your job brings you happiness and contentment, does anyone have a right to question you ? Think of it this way – Keiko may be much happier being a Convenience Store worker, earning her paltry (by other people’s standards), leading her quiet little organized life than a woman who is in the top rungs of her organization!
2) Some people are happy on their own, and they do not feel the need for a partner! People need to respect and understand this – EVERYONE cannot follow the same set of rules. Relatives, neighbourhood aunties, nosy colleagues need to STOP hounding people who choose to live on their own terms! Please respect their privacy.
Ultimately, “Convenience Store Woman” asks the Reader one very important question. What is more important – adhering to society’s norms, however miserable you may be doing so, or being happy and fulfilled in life just the way you are?
Please click “helpful” if you like my review, and you empathize with Keiko!