13 Powerful Books to Read this September
"You can hide memories, but you can't erase the history that produced them." Such is the mantra of Tsukuru Tazaki, the 36-year-old train station designer at the center of Haruki Murakami's breathtaking 13th novel. An elegant page-turner distinguished by Murakami's trademarks—bizarre dreams, stories within stories, the telescoping of worlds—Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage (Knopf) will thrill longtime readers and captivate new ones.
As a high school student, Tsukuru was part of a group of five friends whose bond was unusually close: "The whole convergence was like a lucky but entirely accidental chemical fusion, something that could only happen once." With the exception of Tsukuru, each friend's name contained a color, and these colors became nicknames—the boys were called Red and Blue, the girls White and Black. Tsukuru, however, "just remained Tsukuru," a name that in Japanese means "to build." When he is banished from the group without explanation during college, he's devastated. Sixteen years later, he remains unable to fully engage with anyone—in particular, his girlfriend, Sara. Tsukuru the builder has been stripped of his identity and must create himself anew. This is not a love story, but a story about how love stories become possible.
Fans of vintage Murakami will appreciate the novel's tight focus and inventive revisiting of his earlier work. The narration jumps between story lines and time frames with ease; the result is grand, immersing storytelling that plumbs characters' psyches as it enthralls and challenges the reader.
More than ever, Murakami's writing comforts as much as it disconcerts. Memory reverberates in the echo chamber of our lives, reminding us that when it comes to heartbreak, time is fluid. There is no such thing as forgetting. To move ahead, Tsukuru must return to the beginning.