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Sea of Shadows: Age of Legends by Kelley Armstrong
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The Tenth Circle by Jodi Picoult
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The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami
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Comments for The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle: 11/17/14

cover art

Haruki Murakami is one of those authors whose books I adore even though they are sometimes very uncomfortable to read. He populates his worlds withs with broken, perverted, evil, awful people. In the case of The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, a missing cat begins a plot that's a mix between The Graduate and the the legend of Orpheus and Persephone.

Or maybe instead of Orpheus, I should say, "The Thieving Magpie" as that is the piece of classical music that Murakami uses to set the tone of the book. If you're not familiar with Rossini's piece, take a moment to look it up; you've actually heard it if you've watched cartoons from the first half of the 20th century. Disney and Warner Bros. both used it a number of shorts.

But in all seriousness, when a character in a Murakami book or story mentions a classical piece of music, if you're not immediately familiar with it, put the book aside and listen to the music. Classical music is a huge part of Murakami's world and character building.

OK — now that we're back on track, the book opens with Toru Okada, a house husband, boiling up spaghetti and wondering if he should go look for his missing cat. Before he can finish making his lunch or make up his mind, he gets a strange phone call from a woman calling herself Malta.

Malta brings up rule #2 of reading a Murakami book: strange phone calls are harbingers of change and trouble. Malta's conversation — in fact most of Toru's early relationship with her, brings to mind the first half of Adam Sandler's Punch Drunk Love.

Although Malta is a prostitute, she isn't trying to extort money out of Toru. No Murakami character is that obvious or single minded. Instead, she and her sister, are the spirit guides for Toru. She tells him that he will never find the missing cat until things are sorted with his wife.

As with 1Q84, choices made by the main characters result in a split between worlds and a journey between them. Here, though, the route is through the underworld (both literally and figuratively). Toru must travel through both versions to rescue his wife and find their cat.

I have the newest translated Murakami on my reading list. I plan to get to it within weeks, rather than years because I know it won't disappoint.

Five stars

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