The damages people inflict on us in our childhoods can last forever. At least that’s what happens to our protagonist, the “colorless” Tsukuru Tazaki. His name means “to make” and that’s what he does. The 36-year-old makes and renovates train stations. When he’s not doing that, he’s thinking about how to fix them, sitting by himself for hours at stations, watching people coming and going. It’s his only bright spot in an otherwise tepid existence.
When he was in high school, he had a core group of best friends. All the others had last names that were colors -Mr. Red Pine, Miss White Root. In this sense, he was literally colorless, something that made him secretly feel left out.
In his sophomore year of college, his friends suddenly cut him out. “You know why.” they said. But he didn’t and for the next decade in a half he pretty much avoids any meaningful contact with other people.
But finally, Tsukuru falls for a woman who encourages him to get to the bottom of what really happened. It’s his desire for her that finally compels him to figure it out.
The book has the dreamy quality you find in most Murakami books, but unlike some of his more popular works, it stays mostly in reality (although it still has dreams possibly inflicting real-world pain and a pianist who trades his life for magically enhanced sight. But I’m grading on the Murakami curve of weirdness).
I didn’t realize how much I enjoyed the book until I finished reading it. It’s a quiet book, and even though in the end I got the answers I thought I wanted I still wanted to know more. I wanted to know if Tsukuru felt at peace with what he learned. Or if he got the girl. But life doesn’t give us all the answers and neither did Murakami.
And for those of you playing Murakami bingo, don’t worry. A lot of our old favorites made it into the book.