Book Review : The Miracles of the Namiya General Store by Keigo Higashino

The Miracles of the Namiya General Store (Amazon Link)

Author : Keigo Higashino
Published By : Yen On
Year Published : September 24, 2019. Preorder Available.
Genre / Tags : Japanese Fiction, Contemporary, Realistic Drama, Magical Realism, Scifi – Time Travel
Formats : Hardcover, eBook, Audiobook
# of Pages : 320 pages (Hardcover)

Summary

When three delinquents hole up in an abandoned general store after their most recent robbery, to their great surprise, a letter drops through the mail slot in the store’s shutter.

This seemingly simple request for advice sets the trio on a journey of discovery as, over the course of a single night, they step into the role of the kindhearted former shopkeeper who devoted his waning years to offering thoughtful counsel to his correspondents. Through the lens of time, they share insight with those seeking guidance, and by morning, none of their lives will ever be the same.
By acclaimed author Keigo Higashino, The Miracles of the Namiya General Store is a work that has touched the hearts of readers around the world.

Review

Note : I received an e-ARC of this title from Netgalley and Yen Press, all thanks to them for this opportunity to read this great book.

The Miracles of the Namiya General Store is a Japanese novel that I can heartily recommend to anyone and everyone. You don’t need any sort of pre-existing cultural knowledge to grasp this one. The simple writing style is approachable for most ages (though this is adult fiction) and the story’s focal points are wonderfully effective and meaningful on a universal level. Also recommendable as a first entry into the oft puzzling sub-genres of magical realism and time travel, as the realism aspect is strongly grounded and the other aspects are simply stated yet whimsical.

About The Story

This story follows several different characters across decades in time, all of them linked by a magical little place called the Namiya General Store. The earliest phase of this story follows Yuji Namiya, the owner of the store. He’s an elderly man living the last phase of his life. His wife has passed away and he decides on a whim to give written advice to correspondents (think Dear Abby and such) he accepts handwritten letters from anyone who has a question to ask. At first the questions are simple and silly, but before long people of all ages come to him with lengthy letters asking for advice on very serious situations.

Realizing that his replies could alter the course of their lives, Yuji replies back in earnest, hoping to help them. He realizes he may never find out what happened to those people who take his advice, as he is ravaged by age and illness. There’s also the matter of the people, their unspoken wish to still have his guiding presence offering support and helping them. At this point the magical realism comes into effect. As if responding to all those hopes and dreams, this store becomes a magical space where time stops.

Decades later, three orphaned boys from a group home are on the run. They happen across an old and seemingly abandoned little shop in a back alley- the Namiya General Store. They notice immediately that something is off about this place… They look above and see the moon in a sort of stasis. In this magical little time travel scenario, this unlikely ragtag group can continue what Yuji started by giving advice to people who had sent letters to the store all those decades ago, and the replies are sent back and forth in time. We as the reader see the effects of Yuji’s advice and this group’s advice across a span of decades.

There are multiple smaller storylines, but one that I feel is most emblematic of the batch is about an aspiring musician. He is caught between leaving to follow his dreams or staying to take over his family’s business. Both decisions would have their ups and downs. The three boys (who have very differing personalities, I might add) argue at length among themselves about the pros and cons of his staying or leaving.

But after finding out a very relevant detail in the present day regarding this struggling musician, they make an informed decision that (without spoiling anything major, but hopefully sparking your interest-) results in a live saved, a life sacrificed, and a dream that comes true.

Why You Should Read It

+ This is a briskly-paced and focused read. At 320 pages it all goes by pretty fast. Belonging to a more generalized fiction category, I think it would be appealing to many.

+ One thing I want to mention (though this is more of a personal bit) as a fan of many types of Asian fiction, the amount of translated work out there is relatively small and many of them have strange or very adult themes, are cognitively challenging, and often seem to be chosen for their outlandishness. To find a translated story that is largely uplifting and feel-good is something of a rarity, and I hope this one sees some success for that. There are some heavy moments, but the overarching vibe is positive.

+ There are several characters and while we only view small slices of their lives that are relevant to the storyline, they each feel different and offer some worthwhile perspective.

+ This concept is invigoratingly creative. It would make such a good TV show. There is a live-action film adaptation which I’m looking forward to watching as soon as possible. Below is a subtitled trailer that will probably help in giving more texture to the mood and atmosphere you’ll find within the novel.

Why You Might Not Like It / Criticism

I have nothing too damning to put in this section. The writing style might be too simplistic for some who might prefer a more deep and literary style. Since this is split up into more episodic sub-plots, some of those plots might be of varying interest. I found the final one to be the less interesting of the batch. The ending is somewhat abrupt.

Similar Media

For this section I am recommending works with similar vibes. Funny thing is that I haven’t read many books that deal with time travel in a heartwarming and easily approachable way, if anyone has recommendations please feel free to leave some in the comments.

To The Moon (story-driven game, on PC, iOS, Android, etc) (official site @ link)

This short little story-driven and cinematic game follows two scientists who travel through time to make a dying man’s wishes come true. Critically acclaimed and with ‘Overwhelmingly Positive’ reviews on Steam, this is known to be a real tearjerker and if you’re into reading while listening, it just so happens that the soundtrack to this game would be perfect listening as background music for Namiya.

Your Name (Kimi no Na wa) (film) (Amazon Link)

A very sweetly sentimental film (with beautiful animation I might add) about traveling through time to save lives. This is one of the highest grossing Japanese films / anime films (wikipedia link) and quite recommendable to anyone with even a bit of interest in the medium.

In closing, I greatly enjoyed The Miracles of the Namiya General Store. It will be an experience I won’t soon forget.

Overall Rating – 10/10

The Miracles of the Namiya General Store (Amazon Link)


As you can see, I’m very enthusiastic about this title! Hoping to find more international, translated fiction that is similarly enthralling yet approachable. Have you read The Miracles of the Namiya General Store, or want to? Always welcoming your thoughts, and thanks in advance for your likes and comments. Until next time~

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