reviewin’. Also I started a newsletter!
Sayaka Murata’s 2016 tale of a woman who becomes the perfect convenience-store employee, her whole body humming with the rhythms of the store, could have been a tragedy or even a grotesque. Instead it’s a strange romance, in which Keiko is the ingenue facing down societal disapproval in order to be with her fluorescent-lit, fully stocked beloved. Keiko, far from stalling out in life, has to grow and change in order to turn her early infatuation with Smile Mart into a mature love. Keiko’s voice, rendered in English by Ginny Tapley Takamori, is bright and curious, forthright and full of a kind of discount wonder. Convenience is a bit repetitive, perhaps too blunt in insisting that Keiko longs to be “a normal cog in society.” But on the rare occasions when Keiko reaches for metaphor, she shines: A baby’s cheek is “strangely soft, like stroking a blister.” She’s a little too chromium-plated to be sweet, a little too Teflon-coated to be gentle, and yet she’s a charmer and a delight. Her joy in the store radiates off the page.