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This magnificent new novel has a similarly extraordinary scope and the same capacity to amaze, entertain, and bewitch the reader. A tour de force of metaphysical reality, it is powered by two remarkable characters: a teenage boy, Kafka Tamura, who runs away from home either to escape a gruesome oedipal prophecy or to search for his long-missing mother and sister; and an aging simpleton called Nakata, who never recovered from a wartime affliction and now is drawn toward Kafka for reasons that, like the most basic activities of daily life, he cannot fathom. Their odyssey, as mysterious to them as it is to us, is enriched throughout by vivid accomplices and mesmerizing events. Cats and people carry on conversations, a ghostlike pimp employs a Hegel-quoting prostitute, a forest harbors soldiers apparently unaged since World War II, and rainstorms of fish (and worse) fall from the sky. There is a brutal murder, with the identity of both victim and perpetrator a riddleyet this, along with everything else, is eventually answered, just as the entwined destinies of Kafka and Nakata are gradually revealed, with one escaping his fate entirely and the other given a fresh start on his own.
Extravagant in its accomplishment, Kafka on the Shore displays one of the worlds truly great storytellers at the height of his powers.
Kafka on the Shore
The celebrated author of The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle and Norwegian Wood offers a surreal coming-of-age novel that features talking cats, a ghost in the guise of Col. Sanders, torrential showers of fish and leeches andlast but not leasta pair of unlikely protagonists. Kafka Tamura, a 15-year-old runaway, is traveling across Japan in search of his mother and sister. He ends up in the town of Takamatsu, where he holes up in a library reading to his heart's content and befriending the beautiful librarian, Miss Saeki. Paralleling Kafka's story is that of the elderly, feeble-minded Nakata, whotraumatized by his experiences in World War IIcannot read or write but can communicate with cats. Nakata embarks on his own journey after committing a murder and is also drawn to Takamatsu. The stories of Kafka and Nakata are separate yet connected, both oddly compelling, and Murakami provides plenty of unexpected plot elements as his two refugees run headlong toward their various fates. As usual with Murakami, all is not as it seems: relationships between characters are tenuous, and the modern world appears shadowy and mysterious. Idiosyncratic in style, reminiscent of the work of Thomas Pynchon in its mix of comedy and fantasy, Kafka on the Shore pushes the boundaries of storytelling.
A reading group guide is available in print and online at www.readinggroupcenter.com.