An endearing tale about a magical correspondence.

THE MIRACLES OF THE NAMIYA GENERAL STORE

A fantasy novel tells the story of three thieves who inadvertently become advice purveyors after seeking shelter in an abandoned store.

When their car breaks down unexpectedly, three young criminals decide to hide out in a convenience store that has long been out of business. Atsuya, Kohei, and Shota are planning to lie low for a while—at least for the night—but before they can even settle in, an envelope slides through the store’s mail slot. They are immediately suspicious. Who would deliver a missive to a store that hasn’t been open in decades? The letter is from an athlete looking for advice: Should she forgo her Olympic training to take care of her dying boyfriend or push forward to pursue her dream? “As I was struggling on my own with these thoughts, I heard some rumors going around about the Namiya General Store,” she writes. “I know my chances are slim, but I’m writing on the off chance that you might be able to help me figure things out.” The guys discover that the store—when it was in operation—had a reputation for being a place to have questions answered. Kohei, out of boredom, answers the letter and drops it in the mail bin. Almost immediately, he gets a response. The correspondence continues, though the trio can’t tell where the letters are coming from—other than that they seem to be from 30 years in the past. The novel is a bit of a Russian doll, with one layer of narrative opening to reveal the next. Higashino’s (The Name of the Game Is a Kidnapping, 2017, etc.) prose—as translated from the Japanese by Bett (Star, 2019, etc.)—is muscular and concise: “Exiting the station and heading down the street of shops, Kosuke Waku felt an unsettling feeling creep across his chest. He was right. Just as he’d feared, hard times hadn’t spared this town.” More than a time travel mystery, the story is a rather earnest tale of human decision-making, and the author is adept at drawing an emotional response from readers. Inventive and always surprising, this book is easy to get drawn into and difficult to put down.

An endearing tale about a magical correspondence.

Pub Date: Sept. 24, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-975382-57-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Yen On

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2019

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ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF IVAN DENISOVICH

While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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A LITTLE LIFE

Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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