I confess I wasn't able to finish Murakami's prior novel 1Q84, dropping off somewhere beyond the halfway point. But that was one giant book, and I am happy to report that the only thing giant about his latest novel Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage is the title, which is explained in full early on in the story. In contrast to 1Q84, Murakami's new novel is much shorter in length (Thank God), and much simpler in plot. I would also add that it's one of the most joyful reading experiences I've had in quite some time. Murakami has already won himself quite a few awards, but I think this novel pushes him ever closer to Nobel territory.
As I've written, the plot is simple. Five high school friends (three boys, two girls) form an exclusive, intimate friendship, though without sexual attraction (or so the narrator perceives). The group is inseparable until Colorless Tsukuru leaves town to attend a university in Tokyo where he studies the building of train stations. Everything is okay during his visits home at first, but come spring a trip home results in the altering of his life forever. Tsukuru returns to his home town and finds that the other four will not talk to him, will not see him, and have entirely banished him for apparently no reason. He falls into a horrible depression, loses weight, and begs for his heart to just stop beating. But it doesn't.
Flash forward 16 years later and Tsukuru is building train stations and has a new person in his life. But his girlfriend, Sara, notices that his banishment from the group all those years ago is still nagging at his present, holding him back somehow. Sara pushes him to find each member of his former group to pinpoint just what the hell happened. This is the story of Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, a pilgrimage more mental than physical, and yet still takes him from Tokyo all the way to Finland of all places. As Tsukuru finds out, the truth can hurt, badly, but as the saying goes, it'll also set you free.