This brilliant novel by Murakami is a coming –of –age story of a Japanese boy Tsukuru Tazaki . Within 7 days of its release , this book sold over one million copies in Japan.I have no doubt that Murakami is a great writer , worthy of a Nobel Prize in literature.
The novel is about a group of five boys and girls – three boys Aka,Ao and Tsukuru and two girls ,Shiro,Kuro , all around 20 years of age.As a sophomore in college ,Tsukuru’s four best friends reject and banish him completely . The pain of having been so openly rejected always stays with him. Tsukuru overcomes his feelings of suicide , completes his engineering degree course , and gets a good job to make and maintain railway stations.But he remains forlorn and lonely.
Then comes a young man called Haida , who becomes his friend. Haida serves an important purpose , filling Tsukuru’s post suicidal days with companionship and shaking him out of his solitary, painful and ,lonely life. Haida is fond of listening to Franz Listz,s Years of Pilgrimage. Though Haida has some role , the book has devoted nearly 100 pages to him which seems sheer redundancy.The obligatory magical stuff was not really needed.There are several loose ends and some unexplained situations about the story connected with Haida.
Then , at the age of 36 years , Tsukuru falls in love with Sara Kimoto , who is 2 years older than him .He expresses love , she fondness. Sara realises that what happened to Tsukuru with his group ,was so traumatic that it not only destroyed his vitality but also his desire, his appetite , his longing.Sara says that “I think you are a good person , and I really like you .But I think you have-some kind of unresolved emotional issues.”A journey into the past is necessary to mend the present. Sara tells him “to keep going a little further, and I am sure you’ll discover the right pieces that fill the gaps”. At her instance , Tsukuru undertakes the pilgrimage, a necessary journey to the source of an understanding of his current self.It helps him to understand his immediate past and his present but also his future.Tsukuru realises that ;” One heart is not connected to another through harmony alone.They are instead linked deeply through their wounds as well..Pain linked to pain ,fragility to fragility.There is no silence without a cry of grief, no forgiveness without bloodshed,no acceptance without a passage through acute loss.”
Tsukuru decides to visit three of his living friends, by showing up without an appointment. First he visits Ao, who has become a salesman at a Lexus dealership in
city who tells him that Shiro had proclaimed that she was raped by him. Then
he visits Aka who has started his own company that provides a combination of
personal development seminars and a company training center” Kuro lives in Finland
now , with her Finnish husband and two little daughters. When he meets
Kuro(Eri), she tells Tsukuru that in those days, she was in love with him.About
Aka , Eri says;”I still consider him a good friend. Though I haven’t seen him
in seven or eight years”. Shiro is no longer in this world. She was mentally
unbalanced and had falsely accused Tsukuru of having raped her.The three
friends tell him , one after the other that though they had decided to banish Tsukuru from the group because of Shiro’s accusation , they were convinced that
Shiro had made false accusation. After
meeting his three friends, he finds that the
community that he assumed had persisted
without him , does not exist.He has missed little as a result of his
abandonment.Not every thing was lost in the flow of time.
What will become of Tsukuru? . “Sara said she has feelings for me.He has no reason to doubt it.But there are countless things in the world for which affection is not enough.Life is long , and sometimes cruel.Sometimes victims are needed.” Murakami ends the book without any guaranteed happy ending. But Tsukuru realises that nothing is completely resolved in life. The important thing is to keep living because only by living can you see what happens next.But even if Sara rejects him , Tsukuru will be able to deal with rejection in a much healthier way.