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Art and Culture

Likely Stories: 1 Q 84

Jim McKeown
I Q 84 - August 28th Likely Stories

An epic novel of two people who find each other, then lose each other, then find each other again in a strange new world of 1Q84


I’m Jim McKeown, welcome to Likely Stories, a weekly review of fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and biographies.

As I am well aware of my audience, and protective of their sensibilities, I struggled whether or not to review this novel.  However, Haruki Murakami is an important writer, and 1Q84 is a wonderful story.  Explicit scenes account for about a dozen pages or so and are easy to spot and skip.  But one such scene has important implications for the plot. 

Tengo, a 30 year-old-math prodigy, is a “gentle giant,” respected by everyone he meets.  He pines for a woman he loved and lost and works for a literary magazine.  He reads a wonderful story titled Air Chrysalis submitted for an important literary prize, written by 17 year-old Fuka-Eri, but it is full of errors and omissions, and it lacks clarity and organization.  Something about the story enchants Tengo, and he takes it to his editor, who wants Tengo to re-write the story to make it a prize winner.  Tengo recognizes the plan amounts to fraud, but he agrees to meet the peculiar young lady and her guardian.  They okay the plan, the story wins the prize and quickly becomes a best seller. 

Aomame is a 30 year-old woman who has a black belt in Karate, and works as a fitness coach and a physical therapist.  She lives alone, and dreams about a man she loved who is no longer in her life.  Her best friend committed suicide as a result of her husband’s constant physical abuse.  Aomame takes matters into her own hands and kills the husband, and, because of her skills, the death appears to result from a heart attack.  Aomame partners with a dowager who lost a daughter to spousal abuse and now runs a home for abused women and children.  If a husband shows up and attempts to cause trouble, Aomame takes care of him.  Aomame murders a powerful figure and hides awaiting plastic surgery and escape.  In Parts 1 and 2, the chapters alternate between Tengo and Aomame.

In Part 3, a private investigator – a most unpleasant man by all and every measure – is hired by the dead man’s family to find Aomame.  Ushigawa begins alternating chapters with Tengo and Aomame.

When Tengo was ten, he was teased by students, and had no friends.  Aomame was peculiar, and she also had no friends.  One day, Tengo and Aomame held hands tightly for a few minutes in silence.  She left the classroom, and he never saw her again.  20 years later, he begins searching for her.  Aomame has not forgotten Tengo either, but she is in hiding and cannot risk leaving the safe house.  The lives of these three people are closely intertwined in ways none of them fully comprehend.

Murakami has an amazing style.  His attention to detail can sometimes put off a reader, but the devil is in the details, as they say, and I have a clear and full picture of these characters and their habits. 

Murakami’s 1Q84 is a long but amazing story.  I was never bored, never had a moments of hesitation in turning a page.  Any serious reader who enjoys a complicated story -- and the patience to make it all the way thorough the novel -- will agree.  5 stars

Likely Stories is a production of KWBU.  I’m Jim McKeown.  You can read my book blog at RabbitReader.blogspot.com.  Join me again next time for Likely Stories, and HAPPY READING!