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Infinite Country by Patricia Engel | Thoughts

   Published : 2021   ||    Format : print   ||    Location : Colombia ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆   What was it about the country that kept everyone hostage to its fantasy? The previous month, on its own soil, an American man went to his job at a plant and gunned down fourteen coworkers, and last spring alone there were four different school shootings. A nation at war with itself, yet people still spoke of it as some kind of paradise.. Thoughts : Infinite Country follows two characters - young Talia, who at the beginning of this book, escapes a girl’s reform school in North Colombia so that she can make her previously booked flight to the US. Before she can do that, she needs to travel many miles to reach her father and get her ticket to the rest of her family. As we follow Talia’s treacherous journey south, we learn about how she ended up in the reform school in the first place and why half her family resides in the US. Infinite Country tells the story of her family through the other protagonist, El

Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata | Thoughts

   Published on: 2018 (translation)   ||   Format: print   ||   Location: Japan

One line review: Keiko would rather behave exactly as others expect her to so she doesn't disappoint "society", and so she works at the same convenience store without changing anything about her life, but very soon the same society expects her to "upgrade" (change career and find a husband), except there is no manual on how to do these. 

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When something was strange, everyone thought they had the right to come stomping in all over your life to figure out why. I found that arrogant and infuriating, not to mention a pain in the neck. Sometimes I even wanted to hit them with a shovel to shut them up, like I did that time in elementary school. But I recalled how upset my sister had been when I’d casually mentioned this to her before and kept my mouth shut.


When I started reading Convenience Store Woman, I had no idea what to expect. The synopsis does not give away much, plus although this is a well-read and well-reviewed title, I didn't recall the specifics of other readers' opinion of this book. So in a sense, I went into this book blind and now that I finished it, I completely get why it was important to know as little as possible. Since that's hard to do in a review, I'll have to go on a bit more than the bare minimum, but if you choose to not read the rest of it and instead read the book, I completely understand. 

Thirty-six year old Keiko has been working at the same convenience store for the past 18 years. The people around her have come and gone over the years but Keiko has never been more comfortable elsewhere. At the store, there is a manual dictating how one should interact with a customer, welcome them in, arrange the display cabinets, plan for restocks, advertise the day's specials, and many other do's and don'ts. To Keiko, this is the manual of how to work in the store and, by extension, live her life. As a child, she could not catch a break in the great drama of living a normal life. She thought her responses or answers to problems were normal. As a kid, she hit another child to silence that kid. With a shovel. And she couldn't fathom why the adults were looking at her strangely. 

Over time, though, she realized that it was best for her not to draw attention or volunteer to do more than what she was told to. This is where working at the convenience store worked perfectly for her. But as always, people close to her want her to find a proper career and marry someone so that she can be settled in life. When certain things happen to her to make both a career and a husband possible, will she take it or not?

This was an extremely quirky and intriguing read, and often, I almost dreaded turning the page. Telling Keiko's story from her point of view actually worked well. As with many such books, the reader lives in their head and thus cannot escape their thoughts. You also develop concern, affection, and appreciation for the character. How is normalcy or eccentricity defined? Society automatically puts each person in one or the other bucket based on how they behave or interact. The funny thing is that the same person can be in both buckets during different social situations or if gauged by different judges. Thank goodness for more medical names that don't try to define normalcy. 

Owing to perceiving confusing expectations as a child, Keiko learned to mold herself after other people. She tried to exclaim as one person did, or make conversation as another person did, or shop from the same store as yet another person who appeared to be received as stylish. In this manner she is able to fit into many groups but always, she always hits a wall somewhere. When a new guy joins the store, someone who is the very opposite of Keiko, things start getting hilarious and comedic, though always with an undercurrent of here are two people, rejected by society making an attempt at being "normal". 

There is not a lot that happens in this book but it is also a short book that I finished in two sittings. I didn't however love everything about it. As much as I appreciated Keiko, I thought the author often held her back a little, keeping her "normal". I mean, that is good for her, of course, but at times, Keiko felt like she was bursting at the seams and yet, she doesn't actually burst, if that makes sense. Though maybe that's in character because a "normal" person would have burst.

I've seen this book mentioned on a few different blogs lately. If you have read it, what do you think of it? If not, what's your favorite book featuring a psychopath?