This is the first volume in a tremendously popular series of linked stories that has grown to five volumes and counting. The tales are set in the fictional community of Kazahaya and center on a mysterious convenience store, known as the Twilight Mart, on the edge of town. Surrounded by legend, it is said to be reachable only by those who are searching for something out of some deep-seated need.
Each story tells about a different customer who visits the store. The clerk is a silver-haired, golden-eyed young man of mysterious mien, who in spite of his eccentric appearance is capable of feeling strong empathy for his customers. They are a diverse lot: a schoolboy, a schoolgirl, a thirtyish female radio announcer, a cat in human form, and so forth. All are individuals leading ordinary, unassuming lives, the outlines of which slowly come into focus as they reveal their innermost desires and prayers.
Although a premise reminiscent of children’s stories may seem removed from adult interests, the advancing narratives evoke fond memories and reawaken emotions from simpler times that have been stored away deep in readers’ hearts. The audience for the series has grown both in size and breadth with each new volume, with even older male readers remarking on how moved they were by the deep insights offered on loneliness and death. For readers overwhelmed by the myriad stresses of contemporary life, these “fairy tales for adults” reaffirm the essential goodness of people and shake the imagination out of its torpor.
In addition to the title story, in which a fifth-grade boy visits the store, the volume includes Anzu (Apricot), in which the eponymous cat, approaching death, takes on the form of a little girl to visit its master and say goodbye; Te o tsunaide (Hand in Hand), in which a little girl looking for the doll her mother threw out in anger learns about her mother’s own childhood, and mother and daughter are finally able to connect; Sakura no koe (Sakurako’s Voice), in which the eponymous radio announcer discovers how important her voice is to listeners from the past and future as well as the present and decides not to quit her job; and Aru terebi no monogatari (The Story of a Television), in which a family’s beloved television set, now old and breaking down, musters its last bit of strength to show the little girl wonderful images. In the course of these tales, the Twilight Mart convenience store emerges as a place where those who have lost something treasured and irreplaceable can receive and send invisible messages; it is also a place where they can leave behind their indescribable sense of loss and heartache. Readers will find in these stories not only healing for the heart but the courage to accept the past and begin moving forward again.