Book review: A Wild Sheep Chase

The instant I entered the sheep house, all two hundred sheep turned in my direction. Half the sheep stood, the other half lay on the hay spread over their pen floors. Their eyes were an unnatural blue, looking like tiny wellsprings flowing from the sides of their faces. They shone like glass eyes which reflected light from straight on. They all stared at me. Not one budged. A few continued munching away on the grass in their mouths, but there was no other sound. A few, their heads protruding from their pens, had stopped drinking water and had frozen in place, fixing their eyes on me. They seemed to think as a group. Had my standing in the entrance momentarily interrupted their unified thinking?

It should come as no surprise that I’m a fan of Haruki Murakami. Every book he’s written is filled with regret and longing and loss. Does he write about anything else? But while I’ve enjoyed many of them, I really love only A Wild Sheep Chase. The story of a man with untold regrets, a writer who doesn’t write, who has in one way or another lost everyone important to him; it’s also a strange thriller involving gangsters, telepathy, and one very ominous sheep.

When I’ve had issues with Murakami before, it’s been because of a feeling that his oddball surrealism is spinning out of control. But this time, it’s balanced by an affecting and believable depiction of an old and very deep friendship. Likewise, the crazy plot right out of The Testament of Dr. Mabuse works surprisingly well when anchored by the weight of that relationship. The climax has a double logic, serving the thriller and providing catharsis. Though still all about loss and regret, it’s curiously satisfying on every level.

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