Kafka on the Shore - Philip Gabriel, Haruki Murakami This is my first Murakami, and I already know that it won't be my last.

This is one of the strangest books I've read. It stretches the boundaries of belief, and when it breaks through into the realm of pure magic, we discover the journey has only begun.

The story is told from two different perspectives. In the first, Kafka Tamura is a fifteen-year-old boy who runs away from home to escape a terrifying prophecy that he will kill his father and sleep with both his mother and sister. Eventually, he ends up at a library and gets tangled up in a complex web of lost love, fate on loop, and ghosts. The second relates the story of Nakata, a mentally simple old man who gained the ability to talk to cats after an incident in his childhood. Following a fateful encounter, he too journeys across Japan, picking up along the way a young truck driver as a companion.

As someone who's never taken philosophy beyond what was required of my Government major, I suspect that much of this book was way over my head. But keeping that in mind, I couldn't stop reading this book unless it was absolutely necessary (namely to sleep, eat, and work) and when I wasn't reading it, I kept thinking about it.

This is not a straightforward book. Much of the novel reads like a patchwork of unrelated scenes and conversations. Some scenes are brutal, some are mundane, and others are achingly lovely. The narrative never loses its dream-like feel, and sometimes it seems like you're walking straight into a nightmare. But within the gentle chaos of the narrative runs a common thread that loosely ties everything together by the end. It's kind of like going to a therapist and revealing your deepest, darkest, most confused thoughts: the images and thoughts you relate are seemingly random and unrelated, but they are exceedingly personal and are somehow are still a grand part of one somewhat unified, coherent thing within you with all its problems and complexities.

I thought a lot about the story, and constantly tried to make connections between events. I read much of this novel on a lawn chair, lazing in the sun, with the sound of the wind in my ears, or at night, with the window wide open and the cool silence wrapping me in a cocoon. The quiet inactivity of both the world around me was the ideal way for me to really get into the story. Though some might disagree, I think the uncertainty makes up a part of the fun of reading a book like this--being driven by curiosity to piece the puzzle together and the satisfaction of resolving a part of a somewhat vague image. Some might find the process tedious, but I never felt bored once while reading. Because despite the unassuming, dreamy narrative, Murakami's words pack psychological punches that hit you when you least expected it and throw your emotions into a flux more than once.

Overall, I would highly recommend this novel. I know this won't be everyone's cup of tea, but even so, I would still recommend that people give this book a try. The book is weird. Really weird. But it's a powerful story that will, at the very least, challenge one to think about this very strange, very familiar world.

5 STARS AND HIGHLY RECOMMENDED