This is one of Murakami’s first novels (infact written before his bestseller Norwegian Wood) and my third Murakami read (after Kafka on the Shore and After Dark). The plot and the characters are true to Murakami’s style – one of common place surrealism. The narrator is a late twenty something recently divorced man who lives with his old cat, a cat who can barely see. One night, after a session of rather heavy drinking, vaguely triggered by the death of a former university acquaintance – “a girl who would sleep with anyone”, when the narrator returns home, he finds his ex-wife sitting on the kitchen chair perhaps waiting for his return. But when she eventually leaves a few minutes later, his disillusioned self feels the absence of a slip that could have draped over the kitchen chair much like in an American novel where after the wife leaves, the husband keeps her slip draped over the chair, maybe to feel the continued warmth of her presence. So what do you think happens to this man when he is suddenly called upon by the right hand man of a right-wing don to locate a strange star marked sheep whose only known existence is from a photograph of an idyllic Hokkaido landscape, interspersed with grazing sheep, used for the PR bulletin of an Insurance company? Well, quite the ordinary, which is, the man goes out in search of the sheep which he is to find in a month’s time, not because he feels obliged towards this ailing right-wing don, nor because of a special love that he might harbor towards this ovine species, but only because he is offered an insane amount of money and a genuine threat to his career and life if he fails to do so. And so he sets forth on this journey but not without his new found girlfriend – a part-time proofreader, an ear shot model and a call girl in a friends-only club with none or perhaps all three being her primary occupation. And ofcourse one noteworthy characteristic of this new girlfriend is the exquisiteness of her ear, which she usually keeps under the cover of her hair but occasionally reveals to her lover to have a spell binding, mesmerising effect on him. And so the twenty something one time divorced man and his new girlfriend with magical ears (and perhaps an uncannier sense of the future) set on an incredible journey to find a sheep from amongst almost 5000 still living in 83000 square km of Hokkaido. Enters the Sheep Professor, the director of the once functional Hokkaido Ovine Association, a child prodigy and an Oracle in all matters related to sheep, once highly venerated in the Ministry for his profound knowledge of the ovine before his fall from grace and now self exiled octogenarian. And the Rat, narrators close friends from many years ago, but who disappeared without a trace few years ago, and ofcourse the sender of the sheep grazing photograph. And this is exactly where Murakami’s touch of magic realism takes over, first slowly and then into a head spinning, gut wrenching speed. And before you know, the world around has ceased to exist and you are encompassed in the narrator’s cold wintery world of criss crossing realities. And as the Sheep Man said (yes the Sheep Man and not the Sheep Professor) before parting “Hopewemeetagain”, so will your heart long for the next Murakami masterpiece.
My rating 4.5/5
Buy the book here : The Wild Sheep Chase