Book Club!

Cut adrift from life, wandering aimlessly, Toru is no longer passing through life. Caught between life, Midori, and death, Toru finds neither. The hold placed on our character by the death of his high school friend Kizuki has been extended by the suicide of Naoko. And while he had come very close to regaining his access to life with the vibrant, exciting Midori, that has come crashing down.

I have never understood the need to call victims of suicide selfish. It simply made no sense that someone who was in so much pain that they found the only way out was to take their own life was acting selfishly. Indeed, those who feel that way are being selfish in my mind. When my friend Pat took his life, those who knew him simply went about the tasks needed to make his parents’ life easier and grieved in our own, personal ways. But, like ripples in a pond, the closer you were to Pat, the stronger this grief was and the harder to deal with. Toru and Reiko attempt to deal with the grief by sleeping together, she acting as a surrogate Naoko by wearing her clothes. But does this allow them to finally escape the stasis they have been in; his from the death of friends, hers from breakdowns?

What will happen with Toru and Midori? He had pledged to become her boyfriend, but he lies to her when he says that he is not thinking of Naoko. And as her suicide unmoors him, he leaves Midori behind, drifting across Japan. When he does, finally, reach out to her, the silence of her reply is an eternity. Where are you now? With Midori in the land of life, or staying with Naoko in the land of death?


I hope the commenters and readers have enjoyed Norwegian Wood as much as I have. It has been a pleasure to lead this discussion of an important work by one of my favorite authors. I could not have done this without the editorial help of the wonderful Maribou, so thank you! Also thanks to Jaybird for allowing my to take over his Sunday! posts for the last month and a half. If you find the information I have provided about Murakami helpful and insightful, I highly recommend Jay Rubin’s Haruki Murakami and the Music of Words. Covering a wide range of topics dealing with the author, it contains great background material for his works up to Sputnik Sweetheart, including the wonderful and inventive Hardboiled Wonderland and the End of the World and the novel that I consider one of the finest of the 20th century The Windup Bird Chronicle.


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7 thoughts on “Book Club!

  1. I know I joined in late to the conversation, but I loved this book and look forward not only to rereading it, but also reading other books by this author. The story resonated with me, but what I loved most was the author’s poetic use of language which enhanced and reinforced the themes of the book.

    I doubt I would have read the book were it not for your suggestion, but I’m so glad that I did. It was not an easy read, given I’ve had a couple of close friends who committed suicide. But it was true to the experience of understanding and dealing with the impact of suicide. I read the ending hoping that Noru connected with Midori but suspecting they did not. Too much pain had passed between them. Plus, rhe first few pages of the book suggested that Noru had never truly moved on. But who knows. So much of life and death is a mystery.

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    • Thank you, that means a lot to me. I am very glad you enjoyed it and your comments last week were incisive. As I relate above, I too have been touched by suicide, as I think more and more people have been. It is a deceptively difficult novel, precisely for the reasons you mention. If I was going to recommend something else of his, Hardboiled Wonderland and the End of the World would be top of the list. That or Pinball, 1973.

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  2. Thank you for taking over the Sunday posts!

    The main takeaway that I had from Norwegian Wood was how it kind of reminded me of Sartre’s Nausea.

    I thought “surely I can’t be the only person who thought this…” and googled and Murakami Haruki wrote a short story called “Nausea 1979”.

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