I don’t want to give too much away, but one of the things I like about Japanese storytelling is that there is a difference between an end and a conclusion. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami is an excellent example of that approach. There is an end. Things have changed, what was will never be again. The universe has moved on. Those who are left, however, are still living in a mysterious world where the only thing you can trust is your own love for others.
This story is populated with interesting people, people capable of causing great harm or bringing great joy. Toru finds himself at the center of a world of people who are damaged somehow, injured by some sort of taint on the world, and he has somehow become their champion against a darkness that defies definition. The darkness has a name, though — Noboru Wataya, the name of Toru’s cat and of his brother-in-law.
Fundamentally, the story is a simple one, Toru’s struggle to bring his wife back into his world, to rescue her from the world of her older brother. The struggle itself is anything but simple, however, as mystical forces swirl around Toru and gradually draw him in.
Meanwhile the past is looking over Toru’s shoulder, looming over everything, a sense that something was set in motion a generation ago that is now twisting events for its own purposes. There is an old army officer, who was on a covert mission in Mongolia in the 1930’s. Things were looking bad when another member of his team said, with absolute certainty, that he would die in Japan, and in fact he would outlive the prophet. In that moment the soldier knew the prophesy to be true, but while he survived incredible trials for decades afterward, the knowledge that he would survive, the knowledge of the moment he should have died, renders him a hollow shell, walking dead. It is something of a relief to him, I think, when the prophet finally dies, and death is once more a possibility for him. Under that shadow he is finally able to care for others once more.
There’s a lot of that stuff. Many people are in search of redemption, and each has to find their own path to it. In the center, unwittingly, unwillingly, is Mr. Wind-Up Bird, a quiet man who would rather let troubles blow over than meet them head-on. A guy who likes his routine but doesn’t really know where he fits in the world, yet he carries a quiet conviction that we all wish we had. In a world that is progressively more confusing, he knows just one thing. He wants his wife back, and he’ll do anything to save her from the darkness. Even kill.
Layers, textures, characters, this is some darn good storytelling. Read this book.
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