It’s not often that I don’t get to ‘chose’ my books, but this book was a gift from one of my neighbours, saying it was their favourite book . All this, cause I left them some brownies! I was shocked that I received a book in return! (Thanks Poppy and Dean – so generous of you!) In any case, I decided to work from the unread pile before returning to the library.
At around 600 pages, it was a long book, and often I wasn’t sure where it was headed, but was happy to continue along just a little longer. It’s a translation from Japanese, and it’s set in the late 70s. The clues were references to cassettes, and home telephones! The main character, Toru, has lost his job, and is a house husband. He seems to settle into the routine of being at home as his wife, Kumiko, unexpectedly leaves him. Rather than this event being dramatic, it’s more a slow puzzling unraveling of his life. Prior to her departure, their cat had gone missing. Toru is asked by his wife to see someone about the cat – Malta Kano. Once Malto and her sister Creta, are introduced to the story deviates into the bizarre. There’s supernatural elements in this tale, but I never really resolved why or how they come to be.
Essentially, Toru never stops looking for his wife, and along the way meets people who share their story and life, such as a retired army general who witnessed someone being skinned alive (there is a whole chapter about this episode!). Toru meets a woman who, as the story unravels, finds that her father shares some of his quirky physical peculiarities. There’s also a young neighbour who has stopped attending high school, and is slowly discovering her womanhood. Lastly, Toru is pursued by his wife’s brother (whom neither of them liked, and were both estranged from) who indicates that Toru should sign divorce papers. He flatly refuses to without speaking to his wife.
The book is eerie. It never really rises above the sorrow and sense of lose and longing Toru is experiencing for his wife, who he cannot track down, and refuses to believe wants a divorce. The final chapters of the book draw everything to a close – both the real and the super natural, but I couldn’t help feeling a sense of disappointment. That’s not to say I didn’t like the book – it certainly took me on a journey and was engrossing as it did so.