A teenage boy, Kafka Tamura, runs away from home either to escape a gruesome Oedipal prophecy or to search for his long-missing mother and sister, and crosses paths with an aging simpleton called Nakata, who never recovered from a wartime affliction and now is drawn toward Kafka for reasons that, like the most basic activities of daily life, he cannot fathom.
Murakami is an aficionado of the drowsy interstices of everyday life, reality's cul-de-sacs, places so filled with the nothing that happens in them that they become uncanny … The author achieves this effect by doing everything wrong … Clichés, the ephemera of pop culture, characters who proclaim their thematic function -- these sound like the gambits of postmodernism, tricks meant to distance the reader from the artificiality of narrative and the sort of tactic that gets a novel labeled 'cerebral.' But Kafka on the Shore...doesn't feel distant or artificial. Murakami is like a magician who explains what he's doing as he performs the trick and still makes you believe he has supernatural powers. So great is the force of the author's imagination, and of his conviction in the archaic power of the story he is telling, that all this junk is made genuine.
A novel that is intellectually profound but feels ‘like an Indiana Jones movie or something’ … On one level, the novel is about a 15-year-old boy's rite of passage into the adult world, but on a larger level it's a meditation on Plato's notion...that each of us is looking for a soul mate to complete us … Murakami's spin on this theme and the Oedipus myth is daringly original and compulsively readable … Kafka on the Shore is an excellent demonstration of why he's deservedly famous.
Gay and severe, tender and horrifying...an archetypal coming-of-age quest … In most fiction, these would be psychic wounds worked out in roughly naturalistic fashion; here they come to life like the chess pieces over which Lewis Carroll's Alice falls asleep. Instead of the analyst's couch, Murakami deals with them in the living ferocity of the Sophoclean tragedy from which Freud derived his dead metaphor. Kafka's Oedipus complex is fought in the jousting pit, where most of the action takes place … Murakami's novel, though wearying at times and confusing at others, has the faintly absurd loft of some great festive balloon. He addresses the fantastic and the natural, each with the same mix of gravity and lightness.