Kafka on the Shore
by Haruki Murakami
Paperback- $10.87

Coming this October: Killing Commendatore, the much-anticipated new novel from Haruki Murakami

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  "Didn't like the book, but loved the conversation" by staciesather (see profile) 07/01/10

While most of us in the group didn't enjoy the book, we ended up having on of the best conversations. I have found, in the many years of being in a book club, that sometimes the worst books lend themselves to the most interesting conversations. This was definitely one of them. While I didn't like the book while reading it, I left our meeting with a greater appreciation.

  " Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami " by thewanderingjew (see profile) 09/06/13

Although, at first, I thought this was going to be over my head, I found that it was an exceptionally well written fantasy, albeit, probably one of the strangest I have ever read. The reader was nothing short of superb, handling the individual voices of the characters so well that I was always immediately aware of who was being portrayed, even before they were identified. There were really three parallel stories that occupied the pages. One concerned Kafka, another Miss Saiki and a third, Nakata. In the end, each of the stories will unite and connect, in some way, and the mysteries that unfolded will be solved. Each character, major and minor, was really fully explored, and the reader, while finding them to be a bit of a stretch of the imagination, will be able to see them in their mind’s eye as real because of the skill of this writer.
Kafka, a fifteen year old junior high school student runs away from home on his fifteenth birthday. His mother and sister disappeared when he was four years old and all traces of them have been removed from the house. He begins his journey in order to escape his father’s prophecy that he will, like Oedipus, murder his father and sleep with his mother and sister. He speaks with his (imaginary?) friend Crow, who appears when he needs him, to offer advice and is almost an alter ego. In his travels he is helped by many people who “march to a different drummer” and accept his unusual circumstances as they aid him in his efforts.
Nakata, lives on the public dole because he is dull-witted as a result of a strange illness contracted during WWII. However, he has a special gift. He can rescue missing cats because he has the special ability to speak the language of cats. When he becomes an unwilling accomplice to a violent act, he runs away and discovers he has additional magical powers which he accepts humbly, and seemingly, is unaware of their significance. He has no idea where he is going, but he just keeps traveling west because he understands that he will know where he is when he gets there. He, too, finds people very willing to help him in his quest, people who thank him for his positive effect on their lives, which makes him very happy. Magic is definitely afoot with spirits, talking cats, and mackerel, falling from the sky.
Miss Saeki was a young teacher, very much in love with her childhood friend. They are engaged. He is a soldier during WWII. During this same time, she takes her class on a trip to pick mushrooms in the forest when an unusual event takes place. This event prompts a serious investigation for which she gives testimony. The records of this event are sealed until 1986. When her sweetheart is murdered, during the war, due to a tragic error, she is distraught. She runs away and takes with her, her own secrets about the events that surrounded that strange day with her class in the forest.
Unbeknownst to each other, in some way, the characters are all connected and will all wind up in the town where Miss Saeki is now living. She is in charge of the special library housed in the home of her former fiancé. Each of these characters had been abandoned by life in some way and was searching for something, but they weren’t really sure of exactly what that something was. They seemed to just know they had to search. So many peculiar incidents will occur during their quest, that the reader’s imagination will be stretched to its limits. This talented author is unbelievably creative and will tie up all the loose ends harmoniously, as he leads the reader through the labyrinth of his story.
When the book ends, the reader will be compelled to simply sit for a few moments and think about what has been read. There were so many ideas presented, and they will converge upon the reader’s thoughts. Common themes, which may not be noticed until the very end, will come to light, like the common thread of blood that occurred in each character’s life, or the secret identity of one or another, or the significance of the magical characters with their strange names, or what the spirits really represented, or even why they were compelled to escape from their lives in search of something they couldn’t define? Is that something still hidden in the end, or is it the obvious answer that is revealed? That is the question which will haunt the reader.

  "Challenging read but rewarding conclusion" by laurelh9 (see profile) 11/04/15

Metaphysical fantasy that was challenging to keep up with but all came together by the end.

  "A Literary Acid Trip" by [email protected] (see profile) 03/16/18

Lack of cold logic and coherence are more than compensated for by this beautifully written, fascinating, mind trip of a novel.

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