Norwegian Wood, by Haruki Murakami

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Five stars, read in April 2011.

It’s hard to say, but I think I love this book even more than I loved After Dark. Haruki Murakami’s writing is like music to me, and I loved the characters and the setting and the feel of Norwegian Wood so much that I just wanted to stay in the book forever.

I always forget to do summaries and I’m trying to remember to include them in my reviews, although for some reason they’re hard for me to write after I’ve read a book, especially if I really loved it. So, in the briefest way possible: Norwegian Wood is about a Japanese college student named Toru Watanabe and his relationships with two women: Naoko, the emotionally fragile former girlfriend of his best friend in high school who committed suicide when they were all seventeen, and Midori, an outgoing, free-spirited girl who’s in some of his classes in college. Naoko is in a sanatorium for much of the book, and they communicate through letters and Toru’s occasional trips to visit her.

Haruki Murakami’s characters are people I want to know in my life—flawed and hurt, but aware of it, honest about it; even when they lack self-confidence, even when they feel like they need to apologize for themselves, they don’t pretend to be something they’re not; and they accept other people who are flawed without judging them or condemning them for it. They don’t play games with each other, they don’t put up facades; they’re real and beautiful even in their pain. It’s amazing, and I can’t wait to read the next of his books.

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