If you are willing to suspend your want of reasons, solutions, character growth or resolution, "Kafka" is for you. Another review spoke of Murakami as a creator of playgrounds rather than a writer of novels; this is completely true.
"Kafka on the Shore" follows the perspective of two characters. First is "Kafka," a 15-year-old runaway who is both encouraged and questioned by the boy, Crow, who exists only in his mind. The second is Nakata, an older man with limited mental capacity on state assistance who is able to talk to cats. While never answering all of your questions, these characters and those they encounter are all beautifully described and complex and never seem to resort to stereotypes. Writers who study queer theory might find this particularly interesting because of the existence of a transgendered character, who for the sake of keeping spoilers out will go unnamed. Cat lovers in particular will adore Murakami's description of Nakata's kitty clients, though may find themselves biting their nails as some of his feline friends find themselves in danger.
I particularly enjoyed this book because of all the humor in it. There are numerous cultural references and jokes on Western companies that I had no idea were as widespread in Japan as they were in America; there are two characters called Colonel Sanders and Johnnie Walker, and are meant to resemble both marketing icons. "Kafka" is a fantastic example of postmodern magical realism, but there is so much reality that when fantastic things happen it seems perfectly possible.
The most common criticism of this novel is that there isn't much of an ending, but I believe that adds to its charm. Murakami sets a loaded gun on the mantel and never fires it. There is always something new and there is always something interesting, and if you can take it as it is you will not be disappointed with where it takes you.
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