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Murakami's "Wind-Up Bird Chronicle" dreams of WWII

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The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami

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Haruki Murakami is known for dreamlike fiction with weird sex scenes and lots of Japanese cooking. The Japanese author is at his kooky best with one of the novels that put him on the international literary map, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. The novel's premise is almost too sparse to seem to comfortably support its length, but Murakami makes a man looking for his cat worthy of 600 pages. With an oddball cast of characters including psychic prostitutes, one-armed veterans and a menacing brother-in-law, Haruki Murakami shows that his ability to craft a profound story around unlikely people lands unparalleled among other writers.

The heart of the novel isn't in our mostly passive protagonist Toru Okada searching of his cat and, later, his wife, Kumiko. It's more about what he finds along the way. A profound encounter with a WWII veteran changes the course of Toru's destiny, and makes for uncomfortably riveting reading. You expect the horrors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki from a Japanese novel channeling that war, but Murakami probes into territory more intimate. By not focusing on those two bombs, Murakami cracks open our Western perception of Japan during WWII.

This big, hearty novel joins scattered elements, seemingly disparate, that come together to form The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, which is also a text within the story. This is the kind of book where a teenage girl's whim could kill a man and what looks like a bruise can have a more lasting significance. Exciting and challenging, the book is funny, haunting and amazing.

You can find Haruki Murakami's The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle at your local chain bookstore, online or at an independent bookstore near you (click here for a list). You can also download the eBook to your Kindle, Nook, iPad or other eBook reading device.

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