“Narrow minds devoid of imagination. Intolerance, theories cut off from reality, empty terminology, usurped ideals, inflexible systems. Those are the things that really frighten me. What I absolutely fear and loathe.” 

In this musical, metaphysical mind-better, Haruki Murakami crafts a beautiful story that makes readers willing to believe in talking cats, fish falling from the sky, dream-like sex with ghosts that linger in an alternate reality, and a modern-day oedipal prophecy. A wild but moving ride from start to finish, Kafka on the Shore is an enchanting tale of mystery, daring quests, love, and self-discovery that you don’t want to miss.

The story is told in two distinct but interrelated narratives. In the first, fifteen-year-old runaway Kafka embarks on a quest to find the sister and mother that abandoned him when he was a baby. He befriends such characters as a hemophiliac transgender man and a reclusive singer-turned-librarian before getting caught up in a murder investigation that forces him to flee the library that has turned into his temporary home.

Meanwhile, an elderly man named Nakata who lost many of his mental facilities (but gained the ability to speak with cats) on a mysterious mushroom-gathering trip as a kid becomes caught up in the same murder. In the wake of these crimes, he must embark on his own journey to find the mysterious entrance stone, helped along the way by friendly truck drivers, charming cats, and a pimp modeled after Colonel Sanders. The fates of these two characters and their quests are closely bound, and if you’re still keeping up after all of these strange occurrences, Murakami unravels any sense of stability you might have as the story soars towards its conclusion.

This story is a maze of magic and dream-like quests, but it’s also about the mazes within us—and Murakami brilliantly blurs the lines between dreams and reality to create a story that connects with something inside us that’s hard to put into words. As the narrator from another one of Murakami’s novels puts it, “The best way to think about reality, I had decided, was to get as far away from it as possible.” Magical but still genuine and heart-felt, this novel and its many riddles will stick with readers long after the story has ended.

Buy the book here.

About the Author

Haruki Murakami

Haruki Murakami is a Japanese writer whose works have been translated into 50 languages worldwide. He has won numerous awards, including the Franz Kafka Prize and the Jerusalem Prize. His works, including novels, short stories, and several works of nonfiction, are heavily influenced by Western culture and the authors Raymond Chandler, Kurt Vonnegut, and Richard Brautigan.

In 1978 Murakami was in the bleachers of Jingu Stadium watching a baseball game between the Yakult Swallows and the Hiroshima Carp when Dave Hilton, an American, came to bat. According to an oft-repeated story, in the instant that he hit a double, Murakami suddenly realized that he could write a novel. He went home and began writing that night.

Visit his website here.