Like all of Murakami’s books (at least all of those I have read to date), Kafka on the Shore does not disappoint. It takes a mixture of ideas and unbelievable situations, blending them together into a novel that may not always seem completely rational but which always pushes the limits of our thinking powers. There are so many possibilities, and nothing is set in stone. It is like a modern-day fairy story.
The ‘I’ of the book is fifteen-year-old Kafka Tamura (Kafka is not his real name), and when we first meet him, he is preparing to run away from home to escape from his cruel father. He also has a vague hope of finding his mother and sister. In parallel chapters we are introduced to Nakata, who is, as he likes to tell everyone, not very smart, but who has the gift of being able to talk to and understand cats. As the story unfolds, Kafka meets Oshima and Miss Saeki, who both work at a small private library. Bit by bit we learn of Miss Saeki’s past, and connections, both real and unreal, begin to appear. In the parallel story, Nakata is on a mission to find something (though he does not know what it is), and he teams up with a truck driver, Hoshino.
The stories parallel each other at the same time as they are completely intertwined. As in all fairy stories, all the characters experience personal change as a result of the situations with which they are confronted. At the end, we are left a little wiser, possibly a little confused but, without a doubt, richer for having made the journey.