Knopf - Random House Audio
August - 2014
When I first heard about Murakami's new novel, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, I admit that was a little put off by the title, but after finishing the book in just two days, I must say that afterward I felt the title was perfect.
The story begins with the title character, Tsukuru Tazaki, in his 30's, depressed and contemplating suicide.
"From July of his sophomore year in college until the following January, all Tsukuru Tazaki could think about was dying. He turned twenty during this time, but this special watershed--becoming an adult--meant nothing. Taking his own life seemed the most natural solution, and even now he couldn't say why he hadn't taken this final step. Crossing that threshold between life and death would have been easier than swallowing down a slick, raw egg.
Perhaps he didn't commit suicide then because he couldn't conceive of a method that fit the pure and intense feelings he had toward death. But method was beside the point. If there had been a door within reach that lead straight to death, he wouldn't have hesitated to push it open,without a second thought, as if it were just a part of ordinary life. For better or for worse, though, there was no such door nearby."
In his teens, Tsukuru Tazaki formed a friendship with 4 other teens. 2 males and 2 females. Of the group, he was the only one who did not have a "color" in his name. While his friends were very good students, Tsukuru's grades were average. He wasn't a sport's fan, and really there wasn't anything special about him, his family, however, was the most affluent of the group.
Since Tsukuru always had an interest in trains, when it came time for college, he went to Tokyo to study engineering, hoping to have a career designing train stations and railroads.
In the summer of his sophomore year when he returned home during his college break, he called his friends. One call, two calls, three calls and no response. Finally one of his former friends announces, "I'm sorry but don't call us." Without explanation, he had been banished from the merry group of five. Somewhat insecure anyways, this event sends Tsukuru into a downward spiral making him feel even more insignificant than before. He loses weight and his body begins to take on the look of someone much older.
Then one night after a strange dream changes everything. Tsukuru awoke from the dream feeling as if his dark days had disappeared, but he still had a "colorless" empty feeling that remained. He did the same things each day, but yet he felt different. Remaining in Tokyo a woman he is seeing, Kimoto Sara, suggests that to help him get on with his life, he needs to get some resolution to the traumatic event that still haunts him. She feels he has too much baggage that he needs to unload, and suggests he seek out his former friends and get to the bottom of why they ended their friendship with him. Since Sara works at a travel agency, she helps him track down his friends, 16 years after the fact. He learns some startling things as he connects with them individually, except for one (who has died).
I really enjoyed this novel. It didn't feel as surreal as some of the author's other books, but it was fully engaging, and enjoyable. A few erotic dreams, a conversation with a stranger that vanishes, all add to the mystique of the story. The third person POV worked well, and, even though Tsukuru's former friends were less developed that I had hoped, I was glad that he was able to eventually connect with them, even though none of them were individuals I care for. Instead, for me, his reconnecting with these individuals was a reminder of how our early interactions and the cruelty of others can deeply scar us for life. I liked the way they author wrapped up this story with Tsukuru reflecting on his life, I was satisfied with the ending, but readers who like all the loose ends neatly tied might be a tad disappointed.
The narrative flowed extremely well with both the eBook and the audiobook thanks to great translation by Philip Gabriel. The audiobook reader, Bruce Locke was amazing as well.
Read it! 5/5 stars
(eGalley and audiobook)