Kafka on the Shore Haruki Murakami

Feb 22, 2015 review (read between Feb 1, 2015 – Feb 14, 2015)

1st reading read review on Goodreads

Kafka on the Shore is the fourth Murakami book I’ve read, and probably the most perplexing. Chronologically, of the books I’ve read, Kafka on the Shore comes after The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles and before 1Q84. Kafka seems to be in the middle of the two books stylistically, as well. It isn’t quite as hectic as The Wind-Up Bird, but shares things like having to find a lost cat and strong sexual imagery. It isn’t as fantastical as 1Q84, but has the same parallel dual narratives and emphasis on music. Even Chekhov’s gun gets a mention, although more tangentially than in 1Q84. That said, I get the feeling that if I read more of Murakami’s works I would realize that these points are more about Murakami’s writing style in general as opposed to styles to attribute to specific works of his.

The two main characters in Kafka on the Shore are the titular Kafka Tamura, a 15-year-old runaway in search of his long-lost mother and sister, and Satoru Nakata, an old mentally handicapped man that can talk to cats. Like in 1Q84, these two seemingly unrelated characters go through their own set of crazy experiences and their grand adventures culminate to answer… what, exactly?

I’ve complained about Murakami’s vague and obfuscated endings before, but Kafka on the Shore really takes the cake. This book has been on my mind even a week after I finished it, but there are just too many questions left unanswered. Yet, while I was fairly unhappy with the lack of resolution in Wind-Up Bird, I’m surprised to report that I felt some sense of satisfaction after finishing Kafka. Maybe it’s the generally more positive tone the message the ending delivers, or the less stressful journeys both characters have in this story; more friends and sidekicks, less people after their heads. Or maybe the fact that while there are huge question marks left regarding certain topics, they revolve more around the characters’ pasts, connections, and motivations, and less about their ultimate fates.

Kafka on the Shore definitely raises more questions than answers, but I honestly hope that they’re questions that can be answered, or at least even slightly elucidated, on a subsequent read. And actually wanting to re-read a Murakami novel soon after the first read? That’s a first for me.