I finally read my second Murakami! After The Wind-up Bird Chronicle I had been wanting to read another, but I was never quite in the mood to go on another wild ride. I don’t think Kafka on the Shore is as trippy as The Wind-up Bird Chronicle so it might be a little more accessible to readers new to Murakami or magical realism in general.
Kafka on the Shore begins fairly normally and throughout it there are two story-lines that occasionally bump into each other. First we have a fifteen year old named Kafka. He is planning to run away from his father’s home for reasons that aren’t clear, but he claims that staying with his father will somehow ruin him as a person. Also, Kafka isn’t his real name, but he feels like it should be. The other story-line starts with interviews from witnesses to a strange event that happened to a group of schoolchildren. On an outing the children all passed out at the same time. All of them woke up unharmed except for one child. From here things get progressively more weird. Cats talk, fish fall from the sky, and ghosts visit the living.
As I said, the level of weird in this novel isn’t too much. And, as I said with The Wind-up Bird Chronicle, I am sure I missed a lot of the symbolism and deeper meaning in the weirdness. That being said, Murakami is pretty good about making me believe in his stories. A ghost of someone who is alive may be haunting another character, but it somehow makes sense within the logic of the world. There might be an incestuous relationship, but again it makes sense (and perhaps isn’t incest after all?). The two narratives and the logic of the world flow well. I don’t remember The Wind-up Bird Chronicle making me laugh out loud, but this novel did. (Hoshino and his adventurers… oh boy.)
I find it difficult to rate Murakami novels 5/5 stars mainly because I never feel like I get everything out of them. I may have an M.A. in literature, but I always feel like I miss a lot of the depth. Maybe if I took the time to study his work I would appreciate it more, but it is difficult to dissect every sentence when I want to keep turning pages. Kafka on the Shore was just plain fun. It is a magical, funny, and heart wrenching read that I wanted to both read faster and savor every moment.