After reading this book our book-club was asked to sum it up in one word. The results were:
The book tells a chapter in the life of Toru Okada, a polite and generally mild-mannered man who has no job and seems to drift by on good luck and the kindness of others. Toru’s cat disappears and later so does his wife Kumiko. In attempting to find them, Toru is helped and hindered by an odd cast of characters. An old soldier who can see the future, two sisters who profess to have psychic powers, a teenage girl who takes risks and has a thing about wigs, a cold, dismissive, possibly evil brother in law and a fashion designer whose services to the phenomenally wealthy entail more than clothes.
There is a focus on the minutiae of Toru’s life, interspersed with events and reminiscences that are at turns bizarre, gruesome or dreamlike. Symbols abound and I found myself getting a bit bogged down trying to work out their meaning rather than just enjoying the story.
Some of the themes in the book include, free will versus fate, how well we know each other and ourselves and what it means to have no role or function in society.
Periods of contemplative calm are broken by odd events but the plot feels thin. Everything happens but nothing happens. I felt as though Murakami could have just gone on writing, adding to this book chapter by chapter for the rest of his life. It’s that kind of book. When I finished it, my head remained full of the strange episodes, it felt akin to waking from a disturbing dream.
I didn’t dislike this book but neither would I say it was a great read.