When 36-year-old Sayaka Murata recently won the prestigious Akutagawa Prize for literature, the media latched onto the author's background rather than the novel itself. Murata continues to work part-time as a convenience store clerk, and gains inspiration for characters and plots from her work environment. Her novel is called "Konbini Ningen," which means "Convenience Store People."

What the media loves about Murata is that she has accomplished something extraordinary while holding down such an average job. But the novel itself is really about how extraordinary people have to become average in order to survive.

The protagonist, Keiko Furukura, has always been viewed as "strange" by others, including her family, who once thought she required treatment. She doesn't react to circumstances the way "normal" people do, but she recognizes her differences and tries her best to fit in. In order to become a "regular person," she begins working at a convenience store. There, she studies and copies other people. Convenience stores are the perfect place for this sort of project because they are run according to a job manual issued by management. Working there, she feels she has "become part of the machine of the world." In truth, she is still the same person, but now "disguised as a member of society."