Losing his best friend Kuzuki to suicide at the end of high school, Toru Watanabe decides to head to Tokyo for college to get away from his usual surroundings. While on the train one day, he runs into Kuzuki’s girlfriend, Naoko, and the two become close over several months. When Naoko goes to live at a sanatorium to take care of her own mental health, Toru meets a girl named Midori. Outgoing and self-confident, Midori is the complete opposite of Naoko, and she quickly becomes close with Toru who gladly welcomes her company during his time of loneliness.
What I love about Haruki Murakami’s work is he has an interesting way in phrasing sentences. Instead of using usual cliches to describe a situation or how a character feels, Murakami creates a new way of saying it, like when he describes Toru’s love for another character as so much that it would melt tigers to butter. Norwegian Wood was no exception, with Murakami managing to create vivid images and explain feelings clearly that may be hard for people to express. There were several times where I had to stop and say: yes, I know this feeling. A coming-of-age story that is pretty normal by Murakami standards, Norwegian Wood focuses on mental health, handling death of loved ones, and relationships, including discussions on sex and sexuality. I would highly recommend it to teen readers and older, because I think the topics it focuses on are important to bring in not only at a semi-early age, but also during times when readers may be feeling lost and need someone they can relate to.
While there are several semi-strange parts in the book, the ending is what had me sit up and say: Wait, what? I felt like Murakami realized the story wasn’t strange enough, so he decided he needed to throw in a random existential crisis at the end. Not that that is a bad thing. While it did throw me off, I feel that the ending is important for the overall book as it makes the reader think about the world around them and how they fit into it all. Although an easy read, there is more beneath the plot of Norwegian Wood that gives the reader plenty to think about after the story is over.