Haruki Murakami’s highly anticipated 1Q84 is light neither in content nor in page count. But the gripping love story makes it worth diving into.Ever since Haruki Murakami’s 1Q84 (Knopf, $31) was released to much fanfare in Japan in 2009 (and translated into Chinese and Spanish versions in the interim), American literati have been clamoring for an English edition of the acclaimed novel. At long last, it’s here, and Stateside audiences can finally read the story of Tengo and Aomame, two solitary people whose lives dangerously intersect.
It is 1984, and Tengo Kawana is an aspiring writer who also teaches math at a cram school. Masami Aomame is a successful personal trainer with an unusual side job: extinguishing the lives of men who abuse women. Nearly 20 years ago, Tengo and Aomame shared one brief, yet prescient, moment in a fourth-grade classroom — a seemingly innocent sliver of time that they would revisit in their minds for the next two decades. Ultimately, 1Q84 is the story of their reunion, a march toward one another that unfolds over 930 pages, crosses into an alternate reality and is lived out under two watchful moons.
Aomame’s last — and purportedly most important — ?assignment is to kill the man known as Leader, the spiritual patriarch of the cult Sakigake. At the same time, Tengo has agreed to secretly rewrite a contest submission by the mysterious Fuka-Eri, a perplexing 17-year-old girl whose novella, Air Chrysalis, paints a haunting picture of a world where a shadowy group known as the Little People rule. Tengo’s rewrite soon catapults Air Chrysalis into a national best-seller.
Both events set the stage for Tengo and Aomame’s paths to cross, revealing truths and unleashing the anger of the Little People, who are the architects of the mysterious world of 1Q84. As Tengo and Aomame come closer together, the danger for each of them intensifies.
Murakami’s writing is as simple as it is complicated. The story moves quickly, propelled by suspense and curiosity. But it also has trademark Murakami moments that are quiet and philosophical, rooting his characters within the larger understanding of culture and time — with references to classical music, Chekov and Carl Jung, among many others — as he tells his version of the human story of love, purpose and the intricate ways in which we are all connected.