By Haruki Murakami; translated by Philip Gabriel
Place: Publisher & Year: New York: Vintage International, c2005, 2006
Genres: General fiction, magical realism, fantasy
Number of pages: 464
Setting: Japan – mostly Takamatsu (Shikoku) & Nakano Ward (Tokyo), but also some unspecified mountains
Time period: Contemporary
Plot summary: Two stories converge into one; the first centers around a fifteen year old boy, Kafka Tamura, who runs away from home and finds refuge in a library. The second story centers on an aging mentally challenged man, Nakata, who has the ability to talk to cats, but cannot read. The two characters are drawn to the same place in Japan for reasons which they do not understand. While they both seek answers to complex questions about themselves, another character who goes by the name of Johnnie Walker, seeks something not entirely of this world.
Pacing: Moderate pace – some parts move quickly, others more slowly.
Characterization: Much of the story is told in first person through Kafka’s eyes, however, alternative perspectives are used throughout the story. A second person voice is sometimes used when Kafka encounters the boy called Crow. A third person voice is used in the scenes involving Nakata, as well as some other scenes. Offbeat characters include Johnnie Walker and Colonel Sanders. Other important characters are Sakura, Oshima, Miss Saeki, and Hoshino.
Frame: The title refers to both the main character’s physical location in the story, as well as a popular song written by another character. This song was influenced by a painting and a relationship. The title sets the frame in that there are layers of meaning found throughout this story, which give the reader much to contemplate.
Story line: A bizarre and highly entertaining, complex and convoluted story which is based upon the Oedipus myth. Expect a couple disturbing scenes in addition to much to ponder.
Runaway teenagers — Fiction.
Japan — Fiction.
The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle: a Novel by Haruki Murakami
Rule of the Bone by Russell Banks
Riding the East Wind by Otohiko Kaga
An Echo of Heaven by Kenzaburo Oe
Personal notes: I really enjoyed this story immensely, even though I was a bit perplexed by some of it. I loved how it seemed to begin as a typical coming-of-age story, but just continued to get increasingly more weird as the story progressed. I also enjoyed the characters (except Johnnie Walker) and found a lot of humor in many of the scenes. And while I’m not really certain what metaphysical fiction entails (other than one writer’s opinion), I was surprised to learn that this book won an award for fantasy. I tend to think that fantasy fiction has an element of magic in it, which was very obscure in this book. Yes, there is a ghost in the story – but it is the ghost of a living person. Yes, there is a lot of weird stuff that happens – but nothing is ever explained in any fashion or form. The story seemed much more “realistic” than most fantasy books which I’ve read.
Other: Diversity – teenage runaway, hemophiliac, gay transgender man, mentally challenged man
This book won the World Fantasy Award for 2006