In his poetic book about star-crossed lovers, Shimamoto and Hajime, Murakami is at once innovative and zen-like in South of the Border, West of the Sun. The start of the novel drags on, while we learn about Hajime's past; one that has led him to a happy, yet unfulfilled life as husband, father of two, and successful business owner of two Jazz bars. Although these stories are necessary to understanding our protagonist, the book doesn't pick up until about halfway through, when Shimamoto, Hajime's childhood best friend, reappears one night and changes his life forever.
Their relationship is at once intriguing and never feels forced; Hajime and Shimamoto are simply better together. You can't put the book down during the last few chapters, but the ending leaves you wanting more; more answers; more interaction; more of a definitive ending instead of the poetic ones that are signature Murakami. South of the Border, West of the Sun is not for the faint of heart. Expect a sad tale of true love that's even more distressing than Katniss and Peeta's, but that leaves you cheering on the lovers just as much.
At only a little over two-hundred pages, the book is a quick and easy read; and can easily be finish in less than a week if you read even a little of it every day. The translation isn't the best, as Murakami's imagery is excellent but the words don't always transpose into English the correct way, diminishing the impact of several key moments. There was also an evident grammar mistake within the text, which turned out to be a turn-off. But looking past these details, you're looking at a few hours of a unique read that will leave you thinking about your own life, and what makes happiness work.
Length: 213 pages
Favorite Quote: "The cement that makes you up has set, so the you you are now can't be anyone else."