“‘We came into this world so that we could meet. We didn’t realize it ourselves, but that was the purpose of us coming here. We faced all kinds of complications—things that didn’t make sense, things that defied explanation. Weird things, gory things, sad things. And sometimes even beautiful things. We were asked to make a vow, and we did.We were forced to go through hard times, and we made it. We were able to accomplish the goal that we came here to accomplish.”
Haruki Murakami’s novel 1Q84 has it all: dystopian setting, love story, surrealistic fairy tale, crime, cult, murder. Surely the novel, with its more than 1100 pages, has the space to cover such a panoply of things, but what allows this tome to stand out is its ability to create a seamless yet engrossing narrative. Indeed, despite the novel’s length, I was able to read it in just under three weeks.
Set in Tokyo in 1984, the gist of 1Q84 is dominated by two independent plot lines following two different protagonists. The first surrounds the character Aomame, a thirty-year-old personal trainer who, outside of her regular work, conspires with an old dowager to assassinate men guilty of domestic abuse. The other surrounds Tengo, a thirty-year-old math teacher who works as a writer in his spare time.
While at first the jumping between the two different plots is tremendously confusing, as the novel progresses the reader begins to see hints of how the two plotlines and their characters are related. The general thrust of the novel is the publication of a work called Air Chrysalis. Written by quiet seventeen-year-old Fuka-Eri and reworked by Tengo, the book at first glance appears to be nothing but an enjoyable and unique fairy tale, but ultimately it holds secrets about a mysterious religious organization, Sagikake, of which Fuka-Eri’s father is the leader. Aaomame too becomes involved with Sagikake after the dowager gains information that the leader of the organization engages in the abuse of young girls, in accordance with the cult’s practices.
Yet Sagikake is not the only link between the two protagonists. Perhaps the more compelling aspect of the novel is the fact that Tengo and Aomame are deeply in love with each other, although they have not seen each other since the fourth grade. Ultimately 1Q84 is the story of two lost lovers, a tale told many times before, but the weird, wild journey of their attempt to find each other makes 1Q84 such a compelling read.
-Sebastian R., 12th grade