Ever since I graduated and had the free time to read anything I wanted, I’ve had trouble really getting into a book. I wanted something so well written, so perfectly developed, so entirely enchanting that I could not go on with my day unless I knew what happened to my favorite characters. Struggling to get into the last few books I started (and didn’t always finish) made me more and more frustrated. Then a few weeks ago, I saw the boy’s father and came home with a book. He prefaced handing it over to me by claiming it was great, and he loved the author…but it was a little strange. Given some of the books I’ve read before, I would not let a “slightly strange” book put me off.

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle

At the point that I was give The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, I was already reading two books: Gates of Fire, which I recently finished and reviewed, and Libra, which I have not finished. While both books were interesting, the characters just were not the kind of people that could really get me interested in a story.

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle was everything my other reads couldn’t be: imaginative, creative, enticing, engrossing, frustrating, rewarding, and all-around perfect. According to the back of the book, the several other reviews I read, the few others I know who have read his books, and the Powell’s website, Murakami is one of Japan’s greatest fiction authors. After reading just this one book, I completely believe it. Yes, the story is weird. Yes, the characters are tremendously flawed. But none of that mattered, because I loved this book so much. I cannot wait to read another of his books!

This story follows the life of Toru Okada, a young married man living with his wife and cat in a suburb of Tokyo. His life is anything but simple, and through seemingly random accidents he befriends the most wonderfully strange people. A morbid teenage girl (a character I found wonderfully relatable), psychic cat-finders and prostitutes, evil politicians and crazy in-laws,  and an old war veteran waiting to die all become friends of Mr. Okada. Not sure what to do with his life, Mr. Okada turns to each character in turn for advice and guidance. The crazy, weird, and sometimes deadly results of this advice keeps the story moving forward and a great pace as it passes from one stage of his life to the next.

Despite the many strange things that happen (I can’t elaborate more without giving away important plot twists), I never got to the point where I said “ok, this is too weird, I can’t follow this guy anymore.” As you can obviously tell, I loved loved loved this book. I recommend it for everyone! The characters are lovable and real, and Mr. Okada is the kind of confused and lost guy you want to cheer for when things go right. If you are looking for something to read right now (or even if you’re not!), I suggest picking up a copy of The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle.