I picked up this book without having any knowledge about the plot or the writing style of the author. Well, that’s what I do now a days because I feel like when I am trying too hard on shortlisting a book for my next read, I keep exploring more plots and reviews, than actually picking up the book itself. I wanted to end this never-ending drama about choosing my next book. It should not be that difficult, right? So anyway, all I knew about Kafka on the shore was this:
Kafka, a 15-year-old boy, runs away from his home to find his estranged mother and sister. Nakata, an old dim-witted man, has a talent of finding lost cats and even talking to them. Later, when the story develops, their lives intertwine, and then strange things take place.
Haruki Murakami is one of the celebrated authors who is known to pull his audience into his books with ease. That’s exactly what happened with me. From page one, I was hooked. There was so much going on in the book, some secrets, some magic, some suspense, all of paramount importance. How could I let it go? So, I dived into this strange world of Murakami and let my mind absorb everything. Till about 200 pages, I was impressed. And then, things started going downhill.
Let’s talk about the positives first: Murakami has a very simple way of writing and this is supposed to be a philosophical read in some parts, so the writing was apt. Sometimes, it made me go back to read a few lines to understand them well. I even tried memorizing a few quotes which were heart-warming. Every chapter ended in a cliff-hanger and I was coerced to read more. Some characters do develop as the story progresses because of the experiences they have in the book with other characters. There was also a part of the book which touches the sadness of a long-lost love, which was palpable through the pages.
Let’s come to the negatives: According to Murakami, a 15-year-old boy always has sex on his mind. Although, I know that as teenagers, people are usually hornier, but in this case, all Kafka was thinking about at times was sex. Another discomforting thing about the book, is the relationship of a middle-aged woman with Kafka. Maybe I should not feel so revolted about the sex scenes in the book, because it’s not as if these two were related in any way to make me shudder but the fact that she was much older than Kafka made it difficult for me to digest their relationship and the scenes made me cringe. Lastly, some characters and mysteries in the book are never ever explained. Well, if you are looking for closure, my friend, forget it. You aren’t getting any. Some characters in the book, suddenly appear and disappear without proper explanations. It’s like the author wanted to make things work somehow which wasn’t happening in his case, so he randomly threw in some people and very conveniently removed them when need be. Throw away the logical reasoning right out your window and use your heart rather than your brain while reading. Also, some belief in the supernatural will help.
Conclusion: Kafka on the shore will keep you guessing till the end and then keep you dangling. The author has clearly stated that the book ends on a loose note because he wants the reader to guess or interpret the ending by themselves. I remember finishing the book and then staring at the wall for quite a long time. Of course, I have my own version of what the book means, but a little closure would have been helpful. The most annoying book I have ever read, at the same time, the most intriguing. Rating this book has been the toughest job I have done so far. I am open to reading more books from the author just to understand what else he is capable of. All I know is, he messed with my brain and I will never be complete for the rest of my life.
Favorite Quotes from the book:
“Memories warm you up from the inside. But they also tear you apart.”
“If you remember me, then I don’t care if everyone else forgets.”
“When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.”
“Adults constantly raise the bar on smart children, precisely because they’re able to handle it. The children get overwhelmed by the tasks in front of them and gradually lose the sort of openness and sense of accomplishment they innately have. When they’re treated like that, children start to crawl inside a shell and keep everything inside. It takes a lot of time and effort to get them to open up again. Kids’ hearts are malleable, but once they gel it’s hard to get them back the way they were.”