Anne Marie is adrift San Padua, living a precarious life of shift-work and shared apartments. Her husband Cal left her on their first anniversary and two years later, she can’t move on. When he shows up suddenly on her doorstep, clearly in some kind of trouble, she reluctantly agrees to a drink. But later that night a gun goes off in an alley near the shore and the young couple flee together, crammed into a beat up car with their broken past. Their ill-at-ease odyssey takes them across a shimmering American landscape and through the darker seams of the country, towards a city that may or may not represent salvation.
Mehar, a young bride in rural 1929 Punjab, is trying to discover the identity of her new husband. She and her sisters-in-law, married to three brothers in a single ceremony, spend their days hard at work in the family’s ‘china room’, sequestered from contact with the men. When Mehar develops a theory as to which of them is hers, a passion is ignited that will put more than one life at risk. Spiralling around Mehar’s story is that of a young man who in 1999 travels from England to the now-deserted farm, its ‘china room’ locked and barred. In enforced flight from the traumas of his adolescence – his experiences of addiction, racism, and estrangement from the culture of his birth – he spends a summer in painful contemplation and recovery, before finally finding the strength to return ‘home’.
The eight masterly stories in this collection are all told in the first person by a classic Murakami narrator. From nostalgic memories of youth, meditations on music, and an ardent love of baseball to dreamlike scenarios and invented jazz albums, together these stories challenge the boundaries between our minds and the exterior world. Occasionally, a narrator who may or may not be Murakami himself is present. Is it memoir or fiction? The reader decides.