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Naoko: A Novel Paperback – August 1, 2004

4.3 out of 5 stars 20 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

Winner of the Japan Mystery Writers Award

“Higashino is a deft conjurer of human relationships, and while this is first and foremost a tale of grief— thankfully, no one calls Naoko a story of redemption—he infuses it with spasms of sharp humor.” —East Bay Express

“The novel flips suddenly…in wonderfully pleasing fashion, from pathetic tragedy to social satire and domestic comedy with themes of love, work, sex and education. How could we have ever imagined, without the help of a novel like this, that Japanese life could be so fraught with suffering and so entertaining all at once?” —Alan Cheuse for the Dallas Morning News

"It's the realness of the characters ..that makes the fantastic story more believable and harder to put down." - Mecha Mecha Media Blogspot

About the Author

Born in 1958, Keigo Higashino studied electrical engineering and worked as a salaryman until he wom the Edogawa Rampo Mystery Award in 1985. Originally a detective novelist, he has branched out to other genres, including science fiction. Naoko is his first work to appear in English.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Vertical; First American Edition edition (October 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1932234071
  • ISBN-13: 978-1932234077
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.9 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #79,375 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I was surprised I had such a visceral reaction to the story, and strongly recommend this book. The story is very deep, and the events made me think all the time about myself and the characters. This would be a great book club book because it makes you think about and want to discuss your personal relationships, your own emotions and feelings, and how you would handle situations in the book.

The characters and what happens to them brought out very real emotions in me. I unconsciously made faces as I reacted to what was happening. This was one of those books that really touched me and I can't recommend it enough. I feel like I have had, or could have, the same feelings and fears that are displayed in this book. That helped me identify with the characters and I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a deep, personal, and very interesting story.
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Naoko is a tale of metempsychosis--the transference of the mind or spirit of one person into the body of another. Heisuke Sugita is a blue color worker in Japan, assembling fuel injectors in an auto parts factory in suburban Tokyo. One morning while watching tv, he sees a news report about a bus accident near the sky resort town of Nagano. It takes several minutes before he realizes that it is the bus his wife Naoko and eleven year old daughter Monami were taking to visit relatives.

Naoko dies in the bus crash, while Monami is left in a coma. When Monami regains consciousness, she tells Heisuke she is Naoko, that the spirit of the mother has taken over the body of the daughter.

What follows are the social and psychological consequences of this apparently supernatural event, for Heisuke, and for Naoko/Monami. They decide to tell no one, to keep it a secret. In fact, the Japanese title of the book, Himitsu, means Secret. Once Heisuke becomes convinced that the metempsychosis is real, and permanent, he grieves because he has lost his daughter, while all those about him think he has lost his wife. For "Naoko" to maintain their secret, she must continue Monami's life as an elementary school student.

The author, Keigo Higashino, carefully and skillfully works out the logical consequences of this event. How would a married man, of normal sexual desires, deal with a situation where the spirit of his wife is inhabiting the body of his young daughter? Higashino does deal with the issue of conjugal relations, although briefly, and in a non-salacious way. Most of the book dwells on the development of Naoko/Monami, as she matures socially.
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This book was not difficult to read, but leaves you thinking about several REAL questions. I read it several weeks ago and I'm STILL thinking about the questions it raised. I know there's a movie adaptation of this book, but it misses on several levels dealing with the book. Changing the location from Japan to the US negates some cultural differences. Read the book first, then see the film.
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A touching and deeply engaging story. The plot itself requires suspension of disbelief (as many novels do) but the execution is thoughtful. Higashino depicts the complexity of human emotions and family relationships very well and in a thought-provoking manner.

I expected a mystery novel, but the central mystery introduced at the beginning (why the bus crashed) turns out to be not so important. This isn't a bad thing; I got a richly woven tale that left me thinking a lot about some of its themes, like identity, social conformity, second chances.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a creepy and heartfelt book, the kind of story that stays with a reader long after it is over. After beginning with a completely improbable event (during a deadly accident, a woman experiences physical death while her mind is transferred into her daughter’s body), it never afterward feels anything less than realistic.

The translation seems . . . competent. I can't read Japanese, but I suspect that the original flows much better than this translation. The dialogue occasionally comes across as slightly stilted or unlike the speech of actual people. That said, this book was good enough that I would rather read a faulty translation than not read it at all. Recommended to fans of dark fiction.
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Format: Paperback
A tragic bus accident causes the spirit of a woman, Naoko, to take over the body of her daughter, Monami. Naoko's body dies, and Monami's essence appears to be lost forever. Naoko and her husband, Heisuke, decide to deal with this situation in secret. After all, who would believe them? So, to the world, it appears that Heisuke is a widower living with his daughter, when in fact his daughter has died and he is living with his wife--although, really, he has lost them both.

When author Keigo Higashino is focused on this complex relationship, his novel is quite involving and even moving, although it is not as suspenseful or edgy as the cover copy would have us believe. Unfortunately, there is quite a bit of extraneous material to slow down a narrative that is already rather relaxed and subdued. I kept waiting for Heisuke's investigation into the circumstances of the bus crash and the driver's background to tie in with the main narrative, but it never did. I also couldn't help thinking that, given Naoko's detailed knowledge of her own life, they probably could have convinced members of Naoko's family about what had happened, thereby sharing the burden. However, the end of the novel is quite touching and satisfactory.
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