The sympathetic protagonist, thirty-something, Toru Okada is one unlucky man. A bit of a sad-sap, he loses his job (well he quit his job) as a legal assistant at a Tokyo law firm, then the family cat has disappears, and soon after his wife, Kumiko, vanishes as well. Even before Toru starts to look for her, he begins some introspective soul searching, and blames himself and his shortcomings: no job and not much ambition, as the reasons she has left.
Little by little a motley crew of strangers surface to help Toru, or at least give him some advice while he searches for his cat and his wife. There is May Kasahara, a teenage girl who is troubled by her boyfriend's death. There are psychic sisters Malta Kana and her sister Creta who share insight into where the cat may be. The reader is also introduced to, Lieutenant Mamiya, a man who tells fascinating WWII tales, which include having spent time at the bottom of a well. This well experience is significant as Toru seems to do his best thinking near an empty well behind a vacant house. There is even the evil villain, Norboru Watata, who is Toru's brother-in-law, that adds interest into an already complicated plot line.
Each of the characters in this novel seem to drift in and out of Toru's world. Whether through dreams, out of body experiences, or events real or imagined, each has experienced some sort of pain, and is in search of some meaning in their life as well.
The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, is not an easy read, but it is one of the those books that hooks you early on, and will have you anxiously wanting to find out more. Murakami's writing is brilliant. He always makes you think, and search for some deeper meaning when reading or listening to his work. With themes of loneliness and alienation, I am in some ways reminded of the last book I listened to by him, Dance, Dance, Dance, which also has a lonely, sympathetic man as its protagonist.
If you are looking for a book that has all the loose ends neatly sewn up at the end, this probably is not a book that you would enjoy. However, if you like books with vivid imagery and reoccurring themes, that keep you on your toes and wanting more, Murakami is a fantastic author to begin with.
This reader, Rupert Degas, is amazing. Audio version is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
RATING - 4.5/5 stars
Library Audio Book