Alright, since I loved 1Q84 so much, I thought I’d tackle one of Murakami’s smaller novels, Kafka on the Shore. In this novel, we are again following a dual storyline (not sure if this is a pattern in his novels yet or not, since I’ve only read two and two data points does not a correlation make) but this time it is a young boy who has run away from home and an unusual older gentleman who talks to cats and seems to be a conduit for the young man’s actions. They never come together in the book, except in that their actions work together in an odd sort of way.

As you can probably tell by now, I have to admit I was a bit confused by this one. I really enjoyed it, the writing was again fantastic and the story was engrossing but…I’m not really sure what…the point was? I feel like I’ve just read 400 pages of dense Tao proverbs that should be inspiring and transcendental but they just went completely over my head. I got to the end of the novel, turned the last page, and went…”And…k? Hmm…”

And, as with 1Q84, there are some rather distinct fantastical elements to this one, perhaps with a slightly more science fiction bent due to the sighting of an unknown craft just before events that make our old man as odd as he is. And, again, Murakami feels he needs to point out to the readers that he is not engaging in something as trite as genre fiction when a secondary character, Oshima, says, “What you’re talking about, Kafka, is just a theory. A bold, surrealistic theory, to be sure, but one that belongs in a science fiction novel.” Which is basically what this is. But I’m not going to get into another genre discussion today.

Overall–even though I have no idea what happened at the end of the novel or what I’m supposed to be taking away from it–I truly enjoyed this novel and found myself satisfied with my slightly puzzled response. At least you can say I’m still thinking about it and trying to puzzle through the rather mystical events and connections that permeate it and just what, exactly, they were trying to tell me. I think it might be important…

Cover of Kafka on the Shore