The moon is high above the sky. Below its silvery glow, three friends make a run through the dark. They have failed to achieve their plan. They have no choice but to hide until the commotion is over. Climbing up the hill, they come face-to-face with an old store, and when they squint their eyes to see the now-faded sign, it reads “Namiya General Store”...
Higashino Keigo is known for creating numerous pieces each year. Yet such productivity does not mean he lacks quality. He has written many renowned pieces, including The Devotion of Suspect X and Murder at Mansion Masquerade. Unlike many of Keigo’s other pieces, this novel does not contain any mysterious murder or studious detective. Rather, the story focuses on the goodness of the human heart and how it has the power to create miracles that even transcend time.
Humans can neither foresee the future nor change the past. An obvious statement, yet such uncertainty about the future allows for humans to consider the possibilities in front of them. Although it would be delightful if our possibilities only remain on marginal choices like what flavor of ice cream to eat, life does not forget to bring us cumbersome dilemmas. If the dilemma is too overwhelming for an individual, they rely on others for help. The Miracles of the Namiya General Store revolves around the concept of “guidance”. In the novel, there is no protagonist, antagonist, or a deus ex machina. All the characters rely on others to guide them through their paths. What is more intriguing about this novel is that Higashino Keigo manages to weave the story arc into an interconnected web in a way in which no episode is either left out or disregarded.
The book consists of four main episodes. The character from the first episode has only worked to receive compliments from others. However, she only chose the easiest paths to accomplish them. When all paths require a sacrifice, she gets stuck. Another one works relentlessly hard to achieve his goal. Yet, even his family persuades him that he does not have talent in the field. When he acknowledges this fact, the future seems dark to him. There is also an individual that gives his trust to others and when that trust is broken, he loses the will to believe in others again. Finally, the last character, carried away by her success, loses her empathy for the ones who are in the same situation as she once was: poverty. Such concerns can be commonly observed in our daily lives, and this relatability is one of the reasons why readers can easily connect with the characters. Yet, Keigo presents a solution to each of their problems. Though the solutions will not be mentioned as that would be a spoiler, they serve as “guidance” on how one should deal with one’s problems.
Yet, that is not the only appealing aspect of the book. In the book, even those who provide guidance to others reach out for help. These characters further emphasize the imperfectness of humanity, a factor that allows the book to be more accessible to the readers. I, for one, was especially fascinated by the three burglars who gave advice to those in need. They were portraits of me, someone who can give advice to others without hesitation, yet when it comes to problems of my own, I have no words to say. Yet Keigo did not forget to leave some advice for people like me through Namiya’s letter: “A blank paper does not mean that you cannot do anything. Rather, it signifies that you have infinite possibilities that you can draw on that paper.” Such healing comments that seem to speak to readers directly draw them in.
Every author has a theme that they wish to address. By attracting readers, Keigo can plant his theme straight in their minds. It is clearly stated in Namiya’s words: “Every person that comes to ask me for an answer already knows it inside their heart. Yet, they are unsure because their brain tells them otherwise. I am merely telling them to choose the path they won’t regret.” Life brings us endless choices; some are easy and some are hard. There are even ones for which there seem to be no right answer. Yet upon closing the book, I felt that I made the right choice to listen to Keigo’s story of The Miracles of the Namiya General Store.