Reviewed by Soo Lee, Fri., Oct. 6, 2000
Norwegian Woodby Haruki Murakami, translated by Jay Rubin
Vintage, 293 pp., $13 (paper)
When several of Toru Watanabe's friends commit suicide, he feels as is their ghosts are haunting him and pulling his spirits down. He struggles to live beyond the grasp of death by retreating to nature and connecting to passionate women. His love shifts back and forth from Naoko, his first unfulfilled love, to Midori, a racy and headstrong friend, but he is unable to choose between the perfect longing and vibrant imperfection they represent. Lacking direction in his life, he goes from job to meaningless job and is disinterested in his academic career. Murakami employs flashbacks to impart a dreamy imagistic sheen to the story and uses the Japanese countryside to depict a haven from the chaos of the city. Detaching himself from intense feelings, Toru often speaks like a writer, expertly inserting character sketches and free-flowing tangents. But he observes like a poet who describes the world in rich detail as if seeing it for the first time. Toru's ability to be both emotionally reserved and involved allows him to be a solid but compelling narrator.