Kafka on the Shore

Haruki Murakami

Having now read all of Murakami’s books thus far, I wanted to like this more than I did. Something about the structure of the story seems rickety and unbalanced—the various layers of narrative a little misaligned. It could be that the main protagonist is a bit of an unbelievable 15-year-old runaway (seeking the mother who abandoned him when he was young) or that a supporting character introduced halfway through the book seems to have more resonating revelations.

It also could be that the mystical metaphors are never really grounded. There’s an old man who was the sole victim of a mysterious wartime incident and can’t read or use pronouns consistently but can speak to cats. Somehow he can make fish and leeches fall from the sky, yet follows a mission without seeing farther than his next step. A few characters take the shape of marketing mascots for no relevant reason that I can discern. While I like a little open-endedness, a lot of major points of the story are frustratingly vague.

I’d like to hope that some nuances just didn’t make it into the translation, but the last few chapters felt overwrought and unfinished.