Review: Comedy · Review: Mystery · Review: Short Story · The Storybooker's Untranslated

Untranslated: Stepfather Step by Miyuki Miyabe

Stepfather Step happens to be my favorite book by Miyuki Miyabe.

It also happens to be one of her books that was never translated into English.

Summary

A professional thief crashes into the lives of two middle schoolers—literally—when a heist goes improbably wrong. These middle schoolers are twin boys with a crisis of their own, however, after being abandoned by their parents—and the thief is their solution.

So they blackmail the thief into posing as their father. Obviously.

This is a collection of seven short mysteries, tied together by the overarching plot that is the dynamics between the boys and the thief pretending to be their father.

The Video

Click here to watch me talk about the book for a bit, and read my own translation of chapter 1.

My Thoughts

This was a book given to my father by a colleague of his when I was a child. Inside the book his colleague had written, “Dear Professor, I hope you enjoy this with your daughters.”

I read it, and was delighted; I shared parts of it with my sisters, and they found it delightful, too.

The context in which we received it probably didn’t affect my overall opinion of the book, but at the same time, this was the perfect book to give to a father, to enjoy with his children.

Because this is a book about father-child relationships. Yes—the thief develops genuine affection for the boys. Their relationship is cute and touching and hilarious in turn, and it’s such a delight to follow.

It’s lighthearted, fun, and leaves you happy and satisfied—while at the same time, the plot is taking us all through seven well-crafted mysteries.

This is among the few books that I’ve loved consistently for over half my life.

Why Wasn’t It Translated?

My best guess is that publishers were only interested in buying Miyabe’s biggest hits, and Stepfather Step wasn’t one of them.

But there might be other explanations. Maybe someone made the judgement that the humor wouldn’t carry through—I obviously don’t think so, but I’ll also fully admit that I’m very biased.

Maybe publishers felt that the cute, episodic funny mystery market was already fully saturated, thank you very much. I certainly can think of plenty, just off the top of my head, that are originally in English. And those are serialized novels, too, which is much more publisher-friendly than one single volume. (But I insist that Stepfather Step is funnier and more touching than any of the English-language serial novels I can think of.)

What is There for an English-Speaking Audience?

There’s a TV show based on the book! I’ve never seen it, so I can’t vouch for its quality, but it does exist!

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