Much like J.K. Rowling and George R.R. Martin, best-selling author Haruki Murakami is the type of writer whose fans queue up at bookstores at midnight, clamoring to be the first to get their hands on his latest book. Unfortunately, people who do not read Japanese have had to wait quite some time to read Murakami’s latest, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, which was published to acclaim in Japan in April 2013.

One could argue that it was worth the wait. In this somber book, readers are introduced to Tsukuru Tazaki, a Tokyo train engineer in his mid-30s. During high school, Tsukuru had been immersed in a particularly close friendship with two other boys and two girls in his hometown. However, one day soon after they started college, the group kicked him out of their close-knit circle and refused all future contact, without giving any explanation.

Now Tsukuru’s girlfriend has decided that before their relationship can progress, he needs to get to the bottom of why his friends tossed him out like a piece of garbage. So Tsukuru embarks on an international pilgrimage to visit each of his friends for an explanation behind the breakup, in order to move on with his life and find closure.

Traveling from Northern Japan through Tokyo and over to Finland, Tsukuru is immersed in the type of nostalgia where one feels homesick for a past that cannot be recreated or reclaimed, no matter how hard one might try. Those who have suffered a loss of friendship (and who can say that they haven’t ever been ousted by a clique?) will find this book hits particularly close to home.

As the ending of this sorrow-steeped novel approaches, a beautiful future for Tsukuru is only guaranteed by a close examination of the secrets that have stained his past.

 

This article was originally published in the August 2014 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

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