Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami has to be one of the stranger books I’ve ever read. I’m only about half way in, and there have already been leeches and sardines (separately) falling from the sky, an Oedipus-style prophecy, a character who can’t read but can talk to cats, and—saving the best for last—a mysterious figure named Johnnie Walker who harvests souls to make a magical flute. But Oshima, a central character, is always ready to quote Yeats in saying, “Everything is a metaphor,” perhaps leaving the reader on even more unstable ground than a standard, easy sci-fi novel.
The book follows two (temporarily) separate narratives. Kafka Tamura is a 15 year old boy who doesn’t seem to belong; the book opens with him running away from home and finding work in a library, where he spends all of his time—of course—reading. On the other hand, we are introduced to Nakata, an old man who can talk to cats and make slimy creatures fall from the sky. The book foreshadows their collision—both have shadows lighter than most people, and it is just a matter of time until they find each other.
Kafka on the Shore has an epic feel to it, even though it is an intimate and touching story. The grander themes go hand in hand with the sweeter, more sentimental details. It’s disorienting at times, but still a great and easy summer read.