Book Review

Last year was not a stellar year for me reading books. In August I completed Haruki Murakami's 1Q84, a tome that took me about three months to conquer. Since then, I've stuck mostly to children's books so I decided to give that author a second chance. BFF had given me many books prior to moving to New York (I believe) and South of the Border, West of the Sun is one of the titles that has graced my shelves, unread, for way too long. You may be asking yourself why I gave Murakami another shot after that first questionable experience and truthfully, I'm not certain. I guess 1Q84 was just so out there, I wanted to see if his other writing was a bit more reigned in.
South focuses on the life, specifically love life, of a man named Hajime. We start out with his friendship with a disabled girl named Shimamoto, meander into his first romance with a girl named Izumi, and end up in his marriage to Yukiko. Hajime never quite got over his relationship with Shimamoto that was cut short thanks to a childhood move, destroyed his relationship with Izumi by cheating on her with her cousin, and later finds himself contently married to Yukiko, the mother of his two daughters. He is an only child who seems most comfortable being alone, without being weighted down by relationships. His day to day existence is successful but meaningless until the day Shimamoto strolls back into his life.
Shimamoto appears to bring a certain excitement to Hajime's life that comes in the form of the unknown, the what if. She is a secretive and mysterious woman that pops into and out of his life without warning and quickly becomes an obsession for Hajime. He's convinced he belongs with her at the risk of losing his family. At the climax of their newfound relationship, she has Hajime wondering if his time with her was even reality. Essentially, I took this book to be about a midlife crisis.
Murakami definitely has a way with words but in both books of his I have read, those words tend to meander. He spends a lot of time painting the picture, complete with soundtrack, but all that description doesn't seem to contribute to the story itself. By the close of the book, I had to wonder to myself why I needed to learn so much about Hajime's world, only to have what was essentially a cliffhanger ending. Hajime's midlife crisis was relatable because I think it's fair to say we all wonder about how our lives could be different. I just would have liked a tidier end to his story other than "There is no going back." I think it's time for me to end my relationship with this author now.

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