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Keiko is 36 years old. She's never had a boyfriend, and she's been working in the same supermarket for eighteen years.
Keiko's family wishes she'd get a proper job. Her friends wonder why she won't get married.
But Keiko knows what makes her happy, and she's not going to let anyone come between her and her convenience store...
Murata's slim and stunning Akutagawa Prize winning novel follows 36-year-old Keiko Furukura, who has been working at the same convenience store for the last 18 years, outlasting eight managers and countless customers and coworkers. Keiko, who has a history of strange impulses wanting to grill and eat a dead bird, pulling down a hysterical teacher's pants to get her to be quiet applied to work at the Hiiromachi Station Smile Mart on a whim. Where someone else might find the expected behavior for convenience store workers arbitrary and strict, Keiko thrives under such clear direction, finally finding a way to be normal. In fact, she thinks of herself as two Keikos: her real self, who has existed since she was born, and "convenience-store-worker-me." But normalcy is not static, as Keiko discovers. The older she gets, and the further she drifts from milestones like having a "real" job, marrying, and having children, the more her friends and family push her towards change. She strikes a sham marriage deal with a lazy and shifty ex-coworker, which, though it finally makes her "normal" in the eyes of others, throws her entire life and psyche into turmoil. Murata's smart and sly novel, her English-language debut, is a critique of the expectations and restrictions placed on single women in their 30s. This is a moving, funny, and unsettling story about how to be a "functioning adult" in today's world.