Hajime--"Beginning" in Japanese--was an atypical only child growing up in a conventional middle-class suburb. Shimamoto, herself an only child, was cool and self-possessed, precocious in the extreme. After school these childhood sweethearts would listen to records, hold hands, and talk about their future. Then, despite themselves, in the way peculiar to adolescents, they grew apart, seemingly for good.
Now, facing middle age, finally content after years of aimlessness, Hajime is a successful nightclub owner, a husband and father, when he suddenly is reunited with Shimamoto, propelled into the mysteries of her life, and confronted by dark secrets she is loath to reveal. And so, reckless with enchantment and lust, Hajime prepares to risk everything in order to consummate his first love, and to experience a life he's dreamed of but never had a chance to realize.
Bittersweet, passionate, and ultimately redemptive, South of the Border, West of the Sun is an intricate examination of desire, illuminating the persistent power of childhood and memory in matters of the heart.
From the Hardcover edition.
When I went back into the bar, a glass and ashtray remained where she had been. A couple of lightly crushed cigarette butts were lined up in the ashtray, a faint trace of lipstick on each. I sat down and closed my eyes. Echoes of music faded away, leaving me alone. In that gentle darkness, the rain continued to fall without a sound.Murakami eschews the fantastic elements that appear in many of his other novels and stories, and readers hoping for a glimpse of the Sheep Man will be disappointed. Yet South of the Border, West of the Sun is as rich and mysterious as anything he has written. It is above all a complex, moving, and honest meditation on the nature of love, distilled into a work with the crystal clarity of a short story. A Nat "King" Cole song, a figure on a crowded street, a face pressed against a car window, a handful of ashes drifting down a river to the sea are woven together into a story that refuses to arrive at a simple conclusion. The classic love triangle may seem like a hackneyed theme for a writer as talented as Murakami, but in his quietly dazzling way, he bends us to his own unique geometry. --Simon Leake