Reading a Murakami novel is like stepping into a lucid dream. The setting, characters, and events are realistic yet eerily off center. Anything can happen. Unlike Isabelle Allende or Gabriel García Márquez, Murakami doesn't write magical realism; rather, he's the very definition of Kafkaesque. Which is why I love his books so much. They transport me into another dimension, and even though they are very long (I believe Wind-Up Bird was around 900 pages), I find them gripping.
I'm not even going to try to summarize the plot. There are simply too many nuances. Instead, I will say that it was the characters - both good and evil - who made this such a compelling read. The main character himself (the narrator, that is) was vanilla in all regards. But because he was a passive person, at least at the start of the book, he made the more interesting characters stand out more.
Like I said, the book is very long, and at times, it did drag. Even so, there is something about Murakami's plain style that I find gripping. For some reason, even the simplest of actions (making tea, feeding a cat) take on great significance.
Although I greatly enjoyed the book, I gave it four stars because the ending didn't satisfy me the way that 1Q84 did. It wasn't that I felt disappointed so much as I wanted more of a bang. Even though Murakami's style is subtle and a super-charged ending would have been out of place, I still felt something was lacking. Too many unanswered questions remained. I felt that 1Q84 had a much more satisfying conclusion. Probably, if I'd read Wind-Up Bird first, I wouldn't have thought this, but overall, I didn't care for this book as much as 1Q84.
Still, this is an outstanding novel and definitely worth a read.