Many friends have given me rave reviews of Murakami’s works over the years, both friends who are literature addicts (like myself) and others who barely pick up one book a year. Needless to say, I had to try out his reality-bending worlds for myself.
1Q84 bounces back between Aomame (whose name means “green pea pod” in Japanese) and Tengo. Though both are lonely 30 year-old Japanese professionals the overlap between them initially seems to end there. Tengo is a cram school math teacher. He is hired on to ghost edit a fantastical story entitled Air Chrysalis written by a beautiful, but strange, 17 year-old girl. Aomame is a personal trainer who moonlights as an assassin, killing of perpetrators of domestic abuse.
Their connection becomes clear as both characters, for their own reasons, investigate a mysterious religious cult. As the book progresses Tengo and Aomame get closer to the truth and to finding each other. They also begin to suspect they are living in a world no their own; a world where there are two moons and supernatural beings known as “Little People” may be wreaking havoc. Aomame entitles this world “1Q84” instead of the calendar year of “1984.”
By combining realism with fantastical elements Murakami creates a universe where reality is hard to discern and impossible things lie just beneath the surface. The stable, clear lives of Aomame and Tengo are suddenly swept away despite their best efforts to stay completely in control.
Murakami has an eerie, wondrous style unlike any other. I am reminded of a pristine winter landscape with a skittish deer at the center. It is beautiful, captivating, yet tense and fragile. Despite wildly varying parts everything seems natural. In 1Q84 Murakami’s style is impeccable and wrapped around a plot as riveting as it is bizarre (and it is quite bizarre).