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THE MIRACLES OF THE NAMIYA GENERAL STORE

An endearing tale about a magical correspondence.

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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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A LITTLE LIFE

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

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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. 21, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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FIREFLY LANE

Dated sermonizing on career versus motherhood, and conflict driven by characters’ willed helplessness, sap this tale of...

Lifelong, conflicted friendship of two women is the premise of Hannah’s maudlin latest (Magic Hour, 2006, etc.), again set in Washington State.

Tallulah “Tully” Hart, father unknown, is the daughter of a hippie, Cloud, who makes only intermittent appearances in her life. Tully takes refuge with the family of her “best friend forever,” Kate Mularkey, who compares herself unfavorably with Tully, in regards to looks and charisma. In college, “TullyandKate” pledge the same sorority and major in communications. Tully has a life goal for them both: They will become network TV anchorwomen. Tully lands an internship at KCPO-TV in Seattle and finagles a producing job for Kate. Kate no longer wishes to follow Tully into broadcasting and is more drawn to fiction writing, but she hesitates to tell her overbearing friend. Meanwhile a love triangle blooms at KCPO: Hard-bitten, irresistibly handsome, former war correspondent Johnny is clearly smitten with Tully. Expecting rejection, Kate keeps her infatuation with Johnny secret. When Tully lands a reporting job with a Today-like show, her career shifts into hyperdrive. Johnny and Kate had started an affair once Tully moved to Manhattan, and when Kate gets pregnant with daughter Marah, they marry. Kate is content as a stay-at-home mom, but frets about being Johnny’s second choice and about her unrealized writing ambitions. Tully becomes Seattle’s answer to Oprah. She hires Johnny, which spells riches for him and Kate. But Kate’s buttons are fully depressed by pitched battles over slutwear and curfews with teenaged Marah, who idolizes her godmother Tully. In an improbable twist, Tully invites Kate and Marah to resolve their differences on her show, only to blindside Kate by accusing her, on live TV, of overprotecting Marah. The BFFs are sundered. Tully’s latest attempt to salvage Cloud fails: The incorrigible, now geriatric hippie absconds once more. Just as Kate develops a spine, she’s given some devastating news. Will the friends reconcile before it’s too late?

Dated sermonizing on career versus motherhood, and conflict driven by characters’ willed helplessness, sap this tale of poignancy.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-312-36408-3

Page Count: 496

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2007

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