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Sputnik Sweetheart
by Haruki Murakami

- reviewed by J.M. Frank

Haruki Murakami's latest novel, Sputnik Sweetheart, follows in the tradition of his other most recent works. It is a simple and generally realistic story with a minimalist plot, beautifully told. Gone are the days of talking sheep, alternative universes, and murder via telepathy. Sputnik Sweetheart contains only a hint of the surreal, mainly through stories told by characters and suggested causes of unexplained events. But that hint is enough to bring the reader to a world of new possibilities.

Murakami's new novel touches on a theme he has used before; a person's mysterious disappearance. This time the story does not revolve around any complicated search for the missing person. It is simply the central situation. In fact, not a whole lot happens at all in this book. Much of the book is occupied in the retelling of small stories by the main characters; stories of everything from cats caught in trees to the history of statues in villages. The two remaining central characters do meet together on a Greek island to search for the missing third one. But little actual searching goes on. More text is devoted to the narrator's quiet contemplation, or the journals of the missing character which contain more of the same.

But the novel still works. Murakami has a gift for taking simple elements and turning them into something powerful and touching. He gives the reader in an image of truth that appears real, while leaving the answers just out of reach to both the audience and his characters. He takes a simple story and spins it into a memorable tale of love, loss, longing, and the search for meaning.




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