The celebrated author of The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle and Norwegian Wood offers a surreal coming-of-age novel that features talking cats, a ghost in the guise of Col. Sanders, torrential showers of fish and leeches and last but not least a pair of unlikely protagonists. Kafka Tamura, a 15-year-old runaway, is traveling across Japan in search of his mother and sister. He ends up in the town of Takamatsu, where he holes up in a library reading to his heart's content and befriending the beautiful librarian, Miss Saeki. Paralleling Kafka's story is that of the elderly, feeble-minded Nakata, who traumatized by his experiences in World War II cannot read or write but can communicate with cats. Nakata embarks on his own journey after committing a murder and is also drawn to Takamatsu. The stories of Kafka and Nakata are separate yet connected, both oddly compelling, and Murakami provides plenty of unexpected plot elements as his two refugees run headlong toward their various fates. As usual with Murakami, all is not as it seems: relationships between characters are tenuous, and the modern world appears shadowy and mysterious. Idiosyncratic in style, reminiscent of the work of Thomas Pynchon in its mix of comedy and fantasy, Kafka on the Shore pushes the boundaries of storytelling.

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