Keigo Higashino is currently one of Japan’s most prolific and successful writers, so perhaps it comes as no surprise that his novel The Miracles of the Namiya General Store has sold over 12 million copies worldwide since its release in 2012. This year Yen Press has brought the critically acclaimed novel to English for the first time and I’m here to find out how it won the hearts of so many readers.
The story begins with delinquent trio Atsuya, Koehi and Shota taking shelter in an abandoned store after committing a robbery. The shop is covered in a thick layer of dust, a telling sign that no one checks in on it. The boys think they’ll be safe here until morning comes and they can skip town, but their peace is interrupted when a letter is posted through the letterbox asking for advice. With no sign of anyone outside, the boys grow anxious about how it came to be but are suddenly reminded of the story of the Namiya General Store…
In the 1980s the Namiya General Store suddenly became popular after its owner Yuji Namiya began accepting people’s letters seeking advice. Namiya also worked his hardest to help these troubled souls and would leave responses to their woes in a milk box outside the store. At first, the store was simply given requests for silly advice like how to get straight A’s on a test or how to become a millionaire, but as time went by, Namiya began receiving real cries for help.
The letter that arrives when our trio is hiding out is a similarly serious request, from a woman known simply as Moon Rabbit. She’s torn between her training for the Olympics and spending time with the love of her life who only has six months left to live. Her partner wants her to compete more than anything, but a part of her wants to drop out altogether and share in his final days.
At first, the boys are against writing back, but Kohei is curious about the whole thing and ends up responding. As he and Moon Rabbit exchange notes (replies often turn up within an hour), Kohei discovers that these letters are coming from 1980! Somehow the letters are travelling across time and space to arrive in the present day of 2012, 32 years after they’re written. With nothing better to do for the night, Koehi, Atsuya and Shota devote themselves to helping out those in need – but will their lives ever be the same afterwards?
The Miracles of the Namiya General Store is split into five chapters. The first follows the trio as they go back and forth with Moon Rabbit, but as of Chapter 2, they’re put aside as we take a trip to the 1980s. From here on we follow the stories of those asking for advice, only briefly returning to our protagonists in 2012 here and there.
Although the stories start off being unconnected and individual, as the book goes on, it becomes clear that some of the cast are connected somehow and their tales begin to intertwine. It’s fascinating to follow as it all comes together.
Before reading this book I’d never read any of Keigo Higashino’s works, which I now regret immensely. Quite a few of his novels have been translated into English by various publishers and if they’re even half as good as The Miracles of the Namiya General Store, then they’re well worth seeking out.
I found Higashino’s writing to be captivating. He effortlessly ties the five chapters together and offers a story unlike any other. The book has a wide range of characters, but they’re all likeable and interesting to read about in a similar way to author NISIOISIN and his extended cast in Monogatari. I think Higashino does a good job of making sure the stories from the 1980s don’t feel too old-fashioned compared to what’s happening in 2012 either. It doesn’t feel as if there is a divide between the characters of the past and present, which is important and prevents you from being thrown out of the book.
The Miracles of the Namiya General Store has been brought to the West thanks to Yen Press, who have released it digitally and in a hardback format. The only minor issue I have with the release is that I wish there was a clean version of the front cover without the “over 12 million copies sold worldwide” badge printed on. Elsewhere, translation has been handled by Sam Bett and reads well, with no issues to note.
Overall, it’s easy to see why The Miracles of the Namiya General Store became so popular. Keigo Higashino sets out with an ambitious idea involving time travel and a lovable bunch of characters, which successfully draws the reader in. This book is a fantastic read from beginning to end and I highly recommend everyone add it to their collection.