Translated from the Japanese by Philip Gabriel
Alfred A. Knopf, New York
Ms. Hen is a big fan of Haruki Murakami. She has read several of his books, including THE WIND UP BIRD CHRONICLES, A WILD SHEEP CHASE, 1Q84, and NORWEGIAN WOOD, and has loved them all. She, and many people, think that there is a Murakami style, certain elements that make up his books, and it has been said that when a person is reading Murakami, it makes that person view the world in a different way. SPUTNIK SWEETHEART has all these elements, and it did not disappoint Ms. Hen.
SPUTNIK SWEETHEART is a love story, a mystery, and a story of magic all in one. It is told through the eyes of a young man who is in love with his friend Sumire, but she doesn’t love him romantically. She dreams of becoming a writer, and she spends all her time writing. She falls in love with a much older woman, to the surprise of the narrator, and she travels with the woman to Europe where she disappears from a Greek island.
The elements are all here for the Murakami novel: a missing person, mention of wells and cats, unrequited love. The only different aspects are the fact that Sumire wants to be a writer, and the lesbian part, but that is thrown in because it seems necessary.
When Ms. Hen read this, she longed to go to the Greek island. She felt as if she were there, and she could feel the sand beneath her toes and see the blue sea. She felt for the narrator, who went to the beautiful place, but was too bothered by the fact that Sumire was missing to enjoy that he was in a such a place. Sometimes beauty is not enough, when we’re faced with heartache and loss, as Ms. Hen knows.
There are two places in SPUTNIK SWEETHEART where roosters are mentioned, both about the place where Sumire lives. She calls the narrator and she tells him, “ ‘Right near where I live there’s a man who raises roosters. Must have had them for years and years. In a half hour or so they’ll be crowing up a storm. This is my favorite time of day. The pitch–black night sky starting to flow in the east, the roosters crowing for all they’re worth like it’s their revenge on somebody. Any roosters near you?’ “ She moves out of that apartment shortly after that, where there are no roosters.
There are no words to explain how good this book is, and Murakami is an exceptional writer, one that can sweep the reader to a different world. At first Ms. Hen thought that this book was too good to review, and that everyone knows Murakami is amazing, but she isn’t sure about this. She wants to spread the word that people should read books by Murakami because his books make the world a better place. To be transported is the purpose of literature, and Murakami accomplishes that in everything Ms. Hen has read by him. So run out and get his books, Ms. Hen says, while dreaming of a blue sea in Greece, with snow coming down outside her window. She’s inside drinking coffee, considering the probability of magic.