Convenience Store Woman: a series of overlapping ships of Theseus
The first quality of Kieko Furakura we encounter is an intense utilitarianism. When, as a child, she finds a dead bird at the park, her first thought is that her father loves to eat dead bird, and gets confused when her mother and the other children give it a burial. When she’s in grade school, and everyone is yelling at two boys to stop fighting, she hits one over the head with a garden tool. Everyone’s horror is a mystery to her because as far as she’s concerned, she simply chose the most efficient path. This sets the tone for the book, which is concerned with utility in every moment.
Exactly why Furakura is weird is left up to speculation, which I’d rather not do too much of because it doesn’t matter. She is the way she is, and it primed her to find the convenience store a welcoming place because it’s the first time she was given instructions on how to be normal. Like every other employee, she is told a way to smile, a way to talk, and a way to think, but she embraces these more fully than any other employee. As a result, we catch up to her when she’s been in this job for eighteen years, much longer than anyone would expect. At that point, she’s become a well-honed tool, anticipating customer needs based on weather and reading their minute sounds and movements to react to their needs before they’re even expressed.
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