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An Unfamiliar Place: 1Q84

The first time I came across Haruki Murakami, it was at Barnes & Nobles by Union Square in New York City. It was Summer time, and I was looking for a new book to kill time, during my off days from work. I usually find myself ignoring the best seller section, with all of its highly acclaimed and recommended reads. I feared that the mainstream books were too focused on appeasing the audience, rather than reflecting the authors intentions and ideas. But there I was, pacing slowly down the aisle, my fingers slightly grazing over the covers, waiting for one of them to grasp my attention with its title, elaborate cover or notable creator. But the one which caught my eye was the book 1Q84, by Haruki Murakami, a huge book, its size comparable to that of a dictionary. I was slightly intimidated by its size (over 900 pages long), but I was eager to see what this book had to offer, especially with a title as peculiar as 1Q84. It made me wonder what in the world could this story be about? I was caught. The novel centers around the lives of its main characters Tengo and Aomame. When we are first introduced to them, we see them as two separate strangers with separate storylines, but that turns out not to be the case. Aomame is a gym trainer but also leads a double life as an assassin. Tengo, a math teacher, is also a writer and is the ghost writer of the best seller book, Air chrysalis. We also find out that these two individuals actually know each other, they’ve known each other since childhood, but have not met since. But the connection they had as children, carried on into their adult life, and it brings them together again in this unfamiliar place  of 1Q84. Aomame is the first to notice the differences in this new place, such as the historical events she can’t seem to recall, and the ominous second moon. She realizes she’s no longer in the Japan of 1984 that she knew, and deems this new place 1Q84, the Q standing for question.

While reading the book, you immediately become immersed in the world which Murakami creates. Murakami’s command at the art of surrealism is incredible within this dystopian novel. In the world of 1Q84, there are two moons, a cult which follows the teachings of the mysterious Little People, air chrysalises, and a history which is somewhat obscured. Yet somehow you never question any of it. While reading the novel, I found myself accepting the existence of the little people and the second moon. I wasn’t surprised about the strange and mysterious occurrences, which occurred throughout the story. I would just shrug it off, because hey, it is 1Q84. I also found myself sympathizing with each character, even those who in real life would be deemed as villainous. But Murakami allows us to get to know each of the characters on a personal level, even those who only have a supporting role within the story. We get some insight on their personal lives, desires, quirks, flaws, skills, and even their background stories. There are parts of the story which can get a bit mundane, but there’s always the promise of something exciting about to happen later on, and that’s what really helps keep the momentum of the story going. It’s the anticipation of finally having all your questions answered, and the outcomes of the characters whom you’ve become acquainted with, being revealed. Who are the little people? Will Aomame and Tengo ever unite? Will they ever be able to go back to 1984? What is 1Q84? You find yourself wondering how their story ends, and even at the end, your questions still linger. The ending can seem a bit vague and confusing, sort of like the year 1Q84 itself. The Q, which stands in place for the nine in the year 1984, can also symbolize the questions we may have. The questions which may never be answered?

-Gabrielle O’Connor

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