The wind-up bird chronicle / Haruki Murakami ; translated from the Japanese by Jay Rubin.
Booklist Monthly Selections - #1 August 1997
/*Starred Review*/ "Really, Mr. Wind-Up Bird, it's been a lot of fun being with you. No kidding. I mean, you're such a supernormal guy, but you do such unnormal things. . . . So hanging around you hasn't been boring in any way. . . . But tell you the truth, it's made me nervous too." The speaker is May Kasahara, a Japanese teenager who bears a strong resemblance to Holden Caulfield. She's speaking to Toru Okada, who lives down the street from May in Tokyo and to whom a series of very strange things has been happening. Her words could also stand as a response to this absolutely mesmerizing, befuddling, unaccountably brilliant novel. Murakami is one of Japan's most popular writers, but while his previously translated books have been well received critically in the U.S., they have yet to garner overwhelming popular acclaim. This one will receive plenty of attention, but it's hard to imagine it sharing best-seller slots with the likes of John Grisham. It's just too much book for that.Just what kind of book is it? That's the befuddling part. Plot summary is nearly useless: Toru Okada loses his cat and then his wife. He devotes himself to finding the latter but spends much of his time in the bottom of a well, hoping to pass through the wall and into an alternate world where the secrets lie. Meanwhile, he encounters a series of ever more puzzling characters, including a World War II veteran who recounts the horrifying story of the battle of Nomonhan, during which thousands of Japanese died meaninglessly in conflict with Russians and Mongolians. This overwhelming tidal wave of story washes over Toru Okada, who absorbs each new revelation implacably, hoping but usually failing to make sense of it. Murakami is utterly at ease with multiple subjects, genres, and styles--surrealism, deadpan comedy, military history, detective fiction, love story. His canvas is as broad as twentieth-century Japan, his brush strokes imbued with the lines and colors of American pop culture. Oddly, it all holds together on the stoic shoulders of Toru Okada and his single-minded determination to reclaim the woman he loves no matter how absurd the world around her becomes. In the scary but never boring vastness of this novel, it's nice to find one buoy on the horizon we recognize. ((Reviewed Aug. 1997)) Copyright 2000 Booklist Reviews
LJ Reviews 1997 November
Kumiko Okada has a satisfying career and comes from a wealthy family. Toru, her husband, is a lawyer. Little mars this young Tokyo couple's life other than the disappearance of their cat. From that minor event, however, their life together devolves into a confusing web of intrigue. Kumiko disappears, telling Toru not to look for her. Then a collection of mystics, clairvoyants, and healers enter Toru's life. Reeling, he begins to spend hours in meditation at the bottom of a dry well, becoming a healer of sorts, until his work brings him into conflict with Kumiko's powerful brother-in-law?a conflict cast in moral terms, with Kumiko's soul in the balance. This very long journey is much less magical than simply strained. There are detours into the history of Japan's occupation of Manchuria and accounts of Japanese prisoners' lives in Siberian coal mines. Though interesting in parts, taken as a whole, this latest from Murakami (Dance, Dance, Dance, LJ 1/94) labors diligently toward some larger message but fails in the attempt.?Paul E. Hutchison, Bellefonte, Pa. Copyright 1997 Cahners Business Information.
PW Reviews 1997 August #3
After his wife disappears, unemployed 30-year-old paralegal Toru Okada gets embroiled in a surreal, sprawling drama part detective story, part history lesson, part metaphysical speculation, part satire that marks Japanese novelist Murakami's (Dance Dance Dance) most ambitious work to date. As Okada searches for his wife (in an abandoned lot near his home, and in a city park), he encounters characters who are dream-like projections of his own muted fears and desires among them, a precocious, death-obsessed, 16-year-old neighbor and Okada's brother-in-law, a sinister politician. Peculiar events and strange coincidences abound. A mysterious woman calls Okada regularly, insisting on phone sex. A mystical experience at the bottom of a dry well leaves him with a blue stain on his cheek. Although Okada seems to be sleepwalking through his adventures, new acquaintances feel compelled to share their life stories with him and offer wild tales of violence and passion, tales that contrast strongly with the numbness that settles like a DeLillo-esque cloud over the novel's events (one character, witness to gruesome wartime torture, speaks of having "burned up the very core of my life"). As Okada discovers, these disparate characters are linked by the memory of the 1939 massacre of Japanese troops by Soviet tanks at Nomonhan on the Manchurian border, and this massacre comes to symbolize the senseless violence and political evils, past and present, that haunt Japan in the second half of the 20th century. Ingeniously, Murakami links history to a detective story that uses a mannered realism and metaphysical speculation to catapult the narrator into the surreal place where mysteries are solved and evil is confronted. (Oct.) Copyright 1998 Publishers Weekly Reviews