By Vanessa V. Friedman
Updated November 14, 1997 at 05:00 AM EST

Toru Okada, the protagonist of this Japanese bildungsroman, is an utterly normal man to whom utterly abnormal things happen. As the book opens, he is a married thirtysomething lawyer who has recently quit his job and is in the midst of deciding what to do with his life when, in short order, his cat leaves him; an unknown woman calls up and offers phone sex; his wife, Kumiko, disappears; a pair of strange women named Malta and Creta start visiting; an old man he once knew dies and leaves him an empty box; and, in order to think, he spends some time at the bottom of a dried-up well. Sound weird? It is. And it gets weirder. Still, at heart this is an old-fashioned story of emotional growth covered with a veneer of surrealism. Toru, we’re not in Tokyo anymore. A-

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