Convenience Store Woman
Sayaka Murata; trans., Ginny Tapley Takemori
Portobello Books, $24.99
Some translations, and this is one of them, make the reader wonder whether some crucial point has been lost, and it would look quite different in the original. Funny in a deadpan way, and deeply weird, this is the tale of Keiko, who has been a misfit until at the age of 18 she gets a job in a convenience store. The Smile Mart has elaborate rules and routines for staff behaviour, stock rotation, cleanliness and cash management. Keiko is relieved to be given lessons in how to behave like a normal person, which, she clearly is not. But now at 36, Keiko is feeling the social pressure to pair up and reproduce, a fate for which she is manifestly unfit, and she finds a unique solution. She is the narrator and the reader is mostly on her side, but now and then it feels like being in the company of an alien.