During his teen years, Tsukuru Tazaki belonged to a harmonious group of five people. The other four all had names with colors in them, the boys being blue and red, the girls being white and black. Tsukuru Tazaki was the colorless one. He was also the only one who left the provincial environs of Nagoya (my nephew says Nagoya isn't all that provincial, but in this book it is, apparently, likened to Conan Doyle's Lost World
), and headed off to Tokyo for college. He regularly went back to Nagoya to be with his friends. Then one day, they wouldn't have anything to do with him. They cut him off without explanation. He was devastated and spent the next five or six months thinking only about death.
Some 15 years later, a young woman in whom Tsukuru has an interest, Sara Kimoto, tells him that he has something inside that is blocking him. He needs to understand and confront his past. So, that's what the book is basically about, Tsukuru's early experiences, his hunting up his former friends and confronting them, and also his developing relationship with Sara.
It sounds all so mundane, and in a way it is. Somehow the charm of Murukami is that his characters live normal, somewhat boring lives, pretty much like the rest of us, but there's always some hint of unreality in things. I suppose it's this unreality that makes Murakami books so gripping. I've now read a dozen or so Murakami books, and not a single one is merely a Good Read
, they're all of them, even the non-fiction ones, Great Reads
It would, of course, be remiss of me not to ease you all's Googling burden were I to forget to give you a direct link to Lazar Berman's recording of Liszt's Years of Pilgrimage
. As in most Murakami books, music bears an important part. It's no less so here, and the particular recording (including proper artist) mentioned above is the background music, so to speak, for this story. You're welcome.