The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle is a labyrinthine tome of disconnected doodles glued around a theme: a young man searching for his wife’s missing cat. There are mysterious elements to it (where is the cat?), but it’s certainly not a “mystery” mystery. I plodded through it hoping to be excited at the final few chapters, seeing Murakami whip away the veil obscuring the body of his book. Seeing how all these random appendages attached. Spoiler: they don’t. Everything dangles like frayed cuffs. When you’re looking for the event/motivation that will bring these disparate characters and happenings together and explain their presence in the protagonist’s life, it’s disappointing to find out there isn’t one. People just show up. Or they just stop showing up. Unprovoked attacks are unprovoked. Weird people are weird. In that way it’s a lot like real life, erratic and painful and hard. But that certainly isn’t a profound revelation. To be totally fair to Murakami, I have a distinct preference for books that collect all the odds and ends of the plot into a tidy bundle and that may not be his style. His sentences are expressive and lovely. They completely drew me in, but his plot left me feeling as though I had weathered a storm to no purpose. There are some intense, graphic scenes of violence, torture, and rape. And there’s no reason for them. If there is a female character important enough to take up more than a page of the book, Murakami is sure to include a description of her breasts. (And there’s no reason for that.) For contrast, I have only the most basic idea of what kind of body the main character has. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle just didn’t have the payoff I was hoping for after 600 pages of effort. Maybe I’ll track down some of his non-fiction?