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Review: Wind / Pinball

Wind / Pinball

Wind / Pinball
By Haruki Murakami, Translated by Ted Goossen
(Knopf Publishing Group, Hardcover, 9780385352123, August 4, 2015, 256pp.)

The Short of It:

Mesmerizing.

The Rest of It:

You all know how I love Murakami, right? Well, when I got a review copy of Wind / Pinball, I nearly fainted. Why? Because Hear the Wind Sing was Murakami’s very first novel and Pinball, 1973 was his second. Along with A Wild Sheep Chase, they form what is known as The Trilogy of The Rat.

Wind / Pinball was not available in English here in the US so all this time I’ve wondered about The Rat and his origins, as did fans everywhere. I’m happy to say that readers will get to spend much more time with The Rat in this volume of two books. Two books in one! I die!

In Wind, we meet our unnamed narrator. He’s an unassuming guy (a Murakami trademark). He hangs out at J’s Bar, has an on again, off again romance with a nine-fingered woman and when he is not fantasizing about her, he’s hanging out with The Rat. You could call this novel “uneventful” but it’s classic Murakami. Lots of deep thinking. Not a lot of action.

In Pinball, things pick up a bit. It’s the same unnamed narrator but set during his days as a student. This novel is more surreal in feel. He comes home to find a set of twins in his bed. He calls them 208 and 209. As you may or may not know, sex is almost a given in a Murakami novel and if there are ears involved in any way, then you get to take a drink (kidding, sort of). To make this novel even more interesting, our unnamed narrator and The Rat find themselves obsessed with a particular pinball machine which sends them on a search to find it.

The beauty of a Murakami novel is often how simple the story is. It’s usually this tiny thing that’s surrounded by strange and unusual people and sometimes weird, fantastical happenings. I love his writing.

That being said, there is a slightly different tone to Wind. I could tell that he was still figuring out what type of writer he wanted to be. After all, if you read the newly added introduction, you learn that he decided to be a writer while attending a baseball game. Just like that. He wanted to write and did. If you read nothing else, read the introduction.

This first novel made me feel as if I was reading something in secret. I sometimes think that Murakami injects pieces of himself into his books but in Wind, it felt as if HE was a character in the book. I kind of loved it for that reason.

It comes out today so run out and get a copy if you can.

I’ve read all of his novels now. What am I going to do? I was thinking about reading Kafka on the Shore again. Why? Because that is what you do when it takes years for a new book to come out.

There’s always this:

Kafka on the Shore, The Show

Source: Sent to me by the publisher.

Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

Review: Kitchens of the Great Midwest

Kitchens of the Great Midwest

Kitchens of the Great Midwest
By J. Ryan Stradal
(Pamela Dorman Books, Hardcover, 9780525429142, July 28, 2015, 320pp.)

The Short of It:

Food has a way of bringing people together but in this novel, not only do they come together, but they continually evolve to discover who they really are.

The Rest of It:

Lars Thorvald, a chef, spends his days consumed with the beauty of the bounty before him. His wife Cynthia, an aspiring sommelier, appears to be his perfect match, but when their daughter Eva is born, Cynthia realizes that motherhood is not for her and abandons both her husband and infant daughter to pursue a life elsewhere.

This was a wonderful read. Many have said that it reads like a collection of short stories but I didn’t get that feeling at all. Each chapter is based on an ingredient that becomes very important at the end of the novel, but it lends a certain mystery to the story as new characters are introduced and the pieces begin to come together.

If you are a foodie, you will enjoy this book. Even if you’re not, you will enjoy this book because it’s smart and the characters are a little quirky and flawed but they all meld together to tell a really good story.

It’s about family and friends and really, the pursuit of happiness and whatever your definition of happiness may be.

This is a debut novel for Stradal but you’d never know it while reading it. It’s a delightful read and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Make sure you check out these additional resources:

Fun Resources for your Book Club!

Online Book Club Kit (recipes, wine pairings, playlists!)
Q & A with J. Ryan Stradal

Source: Sent to me by the publisher.
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.