Book Review: Men Without Women by Haruki Murakami

A friend recommended Mr. Murakami to me five years ago. A Wild Sheep Chase was my first read and I have loved his work since.  When I walked into my local bookstore and saw his most recent creation, Men Without Women, I was elated. It had been three years since the collection of short stories was published in Japan, and since Japanese is not in my vast repertoire of languages (wink wink), I had to wait.  Patience is truly a virtue and Mr. Murakami’s readers will not be disappointed.

The title story ends the book, but as you can guess, the entire collection is about men that are affected by the absence of women in their lives. Most of the men lost lovers in one way or another, leaving them pining, broken, confused, indifferent or even dead.  Mr. Murakami explores human connection between the sexes from the male point of view through these fictional tales.

One of the most amazing stories depicts a man that is just being formed, possibly reincarnated into human form, learning to walk, dress, and eat. His first feelings are of hunger. The reader is not sure who this man is, how he came to be a man, why he is in this naked and new state, or even why this story is in the collection. But as the story unfolds, the ‘new man’ meets a woman with a severe deformity who comes to fix a lock in his home. During this encounter, he has an erection for the first time. He is unsure of his desire, and she is repulsed, not knowing that he is new to being a human male.

Strange? Maybe, but if you know Mr. Murakami you know that he likes to push the limits of reality and fantasy. This short story delivers in all of its perfect Murakami form.

One of my favorite stories depicts a man that befriends one of his wife’s lovers after her death. Looking to understand more about what he could not provide during their marriage, the relationship between the men leaves the widower with no real answers, but with some compassion for the man that also loved his wife.

I, of course, cannot do this beautiful collection of stories justice by just explaining them, but if you want to feel something, be moved by words of fiction and walk in the mind of Mr. Murakami, then make this a collection you read this year.

Note: The books I review are chosen by me based on my interests. Please visit your local bookstore to pick up Mr. Murakami’s latest work.

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