Year of Publication: 2002
Length: 505 pages
Genre: Fiction, fantasy, surreal
In present day Japan, fifteen year old Kafka Tamura runs away from home, under the shadow of his father's dark prophecy, in order to find his mother and sister, and finds refuge in a small-town library, with a mysterious boy and a beautiful middle-aged librarian, with a dark past. Meanwhile, gentle elderly Nakata, who has never recovered fully form a bizarre incident in his childhood, supplements his disability allowance by tracking down lost cats, until a brutal murder sends him off on his own bizarre odyssey. In this world cats can talk to people, fish and leeches rain from the sky, a forest hides soldiers apparently un-aged since World War II, the identity of a murder victim, as well as the killer, is unclear, people are haunted by the ghosts of the living, the boundaries between past and present, life and death, and parallel worlds blur and collapse.
This is a beguiling, surreal, dreamlike novel. Often baffling, sometimes frustrating, occasionally funny, sometimes sexy, frequently infuriating and also heart-breakingly beautiful at times. This is not a book that gives up it's secrets willingly, and it offers very few answers to it's many questions. Reading it is at times like falling into a dream, and it requires a lot of concentration from the reader. It moves at a sedate pace, particularly the Kafka storyline. Murakami fans will immediately recognise many of his hallmarks: cats, books, music (particularly classical and jazz) and food all appear frequently and prominently in the novel, as well as the typical Murakami protagonist, who drifts through the story, letting events transpire around them.
Murakami is, in my opinion, one of the greatest novelists around, and, while this may not be one of his best books, it is still heavily touched by his unique genius. It's worth surrendering to this frustrating dream, to experience the uniqueness of his imagination and, most of all, for passages that will lodge in your mind and heart.