'The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle' Review: I'm Not Really Sure What Happened, but I Loved it
True to typical Murakami form, a lot of weird shit went down in this book. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle follows Toru Okada, a jobless man in his 30s with no sense of self and a failing marriage. When his cat disappears, his wife, Kumiko, introduces him to two psychic sisters, Malta and Creta Kano, who are meant to help him find the cat. Before the cat is found, Kumiko leaves Toru.
As the book progresses, Toru Okada builds relationships with the Kano's, who use their powers to appear in his dreams; May Kasahara, a 16-year-old high-school dropout obsessed with death; Lieutenant Mamiya, a kindred spirit who fought during Japan's Manchurian occupation; and Nutmeg and Cinnamon Akasaka, a mother and son duo who help Toru work to get his wife back while Toru takes over their family business.
Kumiko tells Toru that she left him because she's with another man now, but Toru believes Kumiko's brother, Noboru Wataya, had something to do with her leaving and subsequent lack of communication. The public loves Noboru Wataya, a political figure, but Toru sees him in a more sinister light.
In an effort to figure out what happened to Kumiko, Toru descends into a well near his house and ends up in a mysterious otherworldly hotel. He spends time with a nameless, faceless woman here and uses her to try to get information about Kumiko.
The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle is the fantastical story of Toru Okada juxtaposed with the all too real war stories of Lieutenant Mamiya and Nutmeg Akasaka, whose father was in the war as well. They often don't seem to fit together, the war stories told in such detail only to reveal a few coincidences that Toru relates to. Tori's different relationships never seem to fit together quite well either. Malta and Creta Kano disappear halfway through the book. May Kasahara moves away and only contacts Toru through letters he never receives. Nutmeg and Cinnamon leave just as suddenly as they show up, as if they really only existed to further Toru's plot line. Tori's time in the well and the subsequent hotel room are never really explained.
All that being said, though, I still thought The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle was a great book. It stumbled at times, but Murakami is such a unique and brilliant writer that I always wanted to keep reading.
This was my second Murakami book, after Kafka On the Shore. I can safely say I like Kafka On the Shore better, but I can also say that I'm now even more in love with Murakami. He writes unlike any other author I've read, and reading his books like jumping into a strange, dream-like world.
Overall, I would definitely recommend The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, as well as all things Murakami.