by Haruki Murakami
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Murakami's (1Q84) latest novel, which sold more than a million copies during its first week on sale in Japan, is a return to the mood and subject matter of the acclaimed writer's earlier work. Living a simple, quotidian life as a train station engineer, Tsukuru is compelled to reexamine his past after a girlfriend suggests he reconnect with a group of friends from high school. A tight-knit fivesome for years, the group suddenly alienated Tsukuru under mysterious circumstances when he was in college. For months after the break, not knowing what had gone wrong, he became obsessed with death and slowly lost his sense of self: "I've always seen myself as an empty person, lacking color and identity. Maybe that was my role in the group. To be empty." Feeling his life will only progress if he can tie up those emotional loose ends, Tsukuru journeys through Japan and into Europe to meet with the members of the group and unravel what really happened 16 years before. The result is a vintage Murakami struggle of coming to terms with buried emotions and missed opportunities, in which intentions and pent up desires can seemingly transcend time and space to bring both solace and desolation. (Aug.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
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In high school, Tsukuru Tazaki was part of a "perfect community" of five best friends. Each had a color attached to their family names-red, blue, white, black-except for Tsukuru, rendering him "colorless." -After Tsukuru begins college in Tokyo, he's brutally excised without explanation. Sixteen years later, he's a successful train station engineer living a comfortable life still in -Tokyo. Contentment, however, eludes him: "I have no sense of self.I feel like an empty vessel. I have a shape.but there's nothing inside." He's on the verge of his most significant relationship, but his lover warns he "need[s] to come face-to-face with the past" in order to consider a future. His name may lack color, but it also promises agency: tsukuru is the infinitive for "make" or "build." With Facebook and Google as guides, his pilgrimage will take him home and as far as a Finnish lakeside. VERDICT Murakami devotees will sigh with relief at finding his usual memes-the moon, Cutty Sark, a musical theme, ringing telephones, a surreal story-within-a-story (this time about passing on death and possibly six fingers). That the novel sold over one million copies its first week in Japan guarantees--absolutely, deservedly so-instant best-seller status stateside as well. [See Prepub Alert, 4/14/14.]-Terry Hong, -Smithsonian BookDragon, Washington, DC (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.