Kafka on the Shore
Kafka Tamura is the toughest 15-year-old in the world, so is able to leave his home in Tokyo and disappear without telling his father he is leaving. Without a destination in mind, he ends up in the small city of Takamatsu and is able to settle in at private library with some unusual employees. Miss Saeki had a big pop hit when she was young, a tragic love affair, and disappeared. Now she has returned to Takamatsu but her life is a mystery. Oshima is the steady character with odd quirks of his own. Over the next few weeks Kafka (his chosen name, not his birth name) learns how tough he is. He thinks he might find his mother who abandoned him when he was 4-years-old or the sister who left with his mother. Even if he doesn't, he is away from his strange father and his stranger predictions for Kafka's life.
Nakata is an elderly man who lives in Tokyo. He will readily admit "I'm not very bright." He can't read or write and lives on a subsidy from "the governor". He had a weird accident when he was a child that affected his memory. But he can talk to and understand cats. He supplements his small income by searching for lost cats. His story becomes fantastic as he looks for a special family pet. Instead he hears of a man terrorizing cats, then meets a dog and man who kills cats. From there he starts a quest across Japan. Hoshino, a young truck driver who picks up the hitch hiking Nakata, is pulled into the old man's story.
It is difficult to describe this story. Many of the elements sound ludicrous by themselves but come together and work in this book. Haruki Murakami has taken different tales and folklore and brought them together into a story that is hard to imagine but works. The different themes of the tales wind through without detracting from the story. There is enough fantasy and magic to keep the reader guessing.
As much as I was pulled into the story telling, I was disappointed when I finished and put down Kafka on the Shore. There are many unanswered questions and unfinished stories at the end. But instead of making me wonder how things would go next, I felt flat - "is that it? There should be more of an explanation." I also had a problem with some scenes that I felt were added just to titillate the reader. They didn't advance the story in any way.
Despite my disappointment, I hope to pick up more of Murakami's work. The writing kept me captivated, curious as to what was coming next. I have friends recommending some of his other titles, so I should get to a couple of them...
Notice: Explicit sexual content
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These reviews are personal opinions only and in no way reflect other readers' opinions of the books discussed.
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