Haruki Murakami's latest novel, Sputnik Sweetheart, follows in
the tradition of his other most recent works. It is a simple and
generally realistic story with a minimalist plot, beautifully told.
Gone are the days of talking sheep, alternative universes, and murder
via telepathy. Sputnik Sweetheart contains only a hint of the surreal,
mainly through stories told by characters and suggested causes of
unexplained events. But that hint is enough to bring the reader
to a world of new possibilities.
Murakami's new novel touches on a theme he has used before; a person's
mysterious disappearance. This time the story does not revolve around
any complicated search for the missing person. It is simply the
central situation. In fact, not a whole lot happens at all in this
book. Much of the book is occupied in the retelling of small stories
by the main characters; stories of everything from cats caught in
trees to the history of statues in villages. The two remaining central
characters do meet together on a Greek island to search for the
missing third one. But little actual searching goes on. More text
is devoted to the narrator's quiet contemplation, or the journals
of the missing character which contain more of the same.
But the novel still works. Murakami has a gift for taking simple
elements and turning them into something powerful and touching.
He gives the reader in an image of truth that appears real, while
leaving the answers just out of reach to both the audience and his
characters. He takes a simple story and spins it into a memorable
tale of love, loss, longing, and the search for meaning.