As hearts open up and stories unfold, the reader is subjected to tears and laughter.
Why do we want to revisit this little quaint convenience store time and again?
Geun-bae uses his natural charm and disarming persona to make his customers and coworkers open up to him. He befriends So-jin, a fellow part-timer who considers herself a fool for almost being lured into servitude by a notorious employer; Mr. Choi, the owner of the nearby butcher shop who tries to forget his financial and business woes by drinking alone at a table outside the convenience store every night; and Min-gyu, a high school student forced to spend most of his time at home because of the COVID-19 lockdown who finds himself hurt by the poverty and constant bickering of his parents. Geun-bae’s eagerness to help these depressed souls is not always received well, as he is sometimes thought to be “nosy” and “a show-off.” However, his sincerity ultimately speaks to people, even moving Min-sik, the egotistical owner of the convenience store.
When Geun-bae tries to console a teary So-jin with a soft drink or makes Mr. Choi feel less lonely by sitting next to him with a can of beer for himself, the reader is naturally reminded of Dokgo, the central figure of the author’s previous book. In the wee hours of the morning, Geun-bae thinks about Dokgo often.
What does Geun-bae have to do with Dokgo? What has led him to this convenience store? What happened to Ms. Yeom, who became friends with Dokgo and left the convenience store for her son to run and is nowhere to be seen anymore? As the reader’s questions pile up, the novel begins to address them one by one, coming full circle with the previous installment in a climactic fashion.
The light that guides life, the guard post that keeps hope alive
The author’s ability to tell a story in the most compelling way possible still shows in this sequel from the first novel, shifting perspectives between eight episodes and portraying characters who all appear genuine and lived-in. Every character in The Inconvenient Convenience Store 2 is going through the most agonizing time of their life. Geun-bae is no exception, despite the insistent optimism repeated in his chant, “Comparison is cancer; worrying is poison.” The global pandemic has burdened these characters with new challenges, demanding that they seek solutions by looking back on what they had stubbornly refused to confront and thinking of what it truly means to live. In the process, the characters open up to one another, change, rise again, and dream. Their relationships help them regain the courage to face life. They work to laugh again.
Ms. Yeom says of her convenience store: “I wanted this place open and brightly lit 24/7, to guide and protect my life like a guard post.” The small corner store ultimately becomes that—a guard post, or a community hub, that keeps hope alive for the store owner, workers, and customers alike.