What is the story about? It's hard to say believe it or not. Toru keeps receiving mysterious sex phone calls from someone he doesn't know. He and his wife, Kumiko's, cat is missing, and they can't find it. He meets a girl, May, who refuses to go to school, and counts balding men for a wig company. Kumiko leaves Toru, but Toru can't accept the fact that she would simply leave him for another man. So ensues pages of Toru cooking dinner, wandering around Tokyo, and meeting with strangers that have psychic powers.
I didn't like the Wind-Up Bird Chronicle until the 3rd portion. I am a Murakami fan, and I am giving this novel 4 stars, but I felt like this book dragged even more than his other ones, if that is even possible! I didn't like it as much as his other works. I think Toru was rather bland. We don't learn much about him.
I thought it was kind of odd that many of the characters blabbed out their whole life story to Toru with barely a precipitating event. However, I think there are more loose ends wrapped up in this novel than 1Q84 or Kafka on the Shore. Cinnamon and Nutmeg remain mysterious, but I felt their inclusion heightened the story, along with the WWII sideplot. I think the WWII parts were the best in the book, and simply reading those chapters, skipping everything else, would make a decent read. Malta and Creta didn't carry the beginning of the novel well as side characters, although they were interesting in their own right. May struck me as very Lolita-esque character, wearing her bathing suit and sunglasses, and I wonder if this is a nod to Nabokov.
Although the details of Toru's abilities and what he experiences are never explained, it doesn't detract from the story. Now that I finished this book, I am surprised by how short the plot actually is.
Trying to understand what Murkami wanted from this book is difficult. What is the major theme running through? Quite frankly, I don't really know. Toru goes on a psychic/hallucinatory "journey" and unblocks the relationship between him and his wife. A metaphor for a broken relationship haunted by a psychotic older brother that can be fixed? Just not sure, but reading Wind-Up Bird is like stepping into the vastness of the human mind. The ebb and flow of thoughts, which often are not logical or conclusive.