Review: South of the Border, West of the Sun by Haruki Murakami

Married life is leaving me with tons of things on my to-do list. I have a list of blog posts to write since late August that I still haven’t written and I still have books waiting to be read. My old single life had weekends to relax and do things but my new married life has weekends for chores and responsibilities. I love it, I really do but sometimes, I do miss my single life – especially when I see my blog and all my books slowly being forgotten because real life needs to be lived.

Which is why it took me a flight to Singapore to finally finish this book! My latest read is Haruki Murakami’s South of the Border, West of the Sun.

Growing up in the suburbs of post-war Japan, it seemed to Hajime that everyone but him had brothers and sisters. His sole companion was Shimamoto, also an only child. Together they spent long afternoons listening to her father’s record collection. But when his family moved away, the two lost touch. Now Hajime is in his thirties. After a decade of drifting he has found happiness with his loving wife and two daughters, and success running a jazz bar. Then Shimamoto reappears. She is beautiful, intense, enveloped in mystery. Hajime is catapulted into the past, putting at risk all he has in the present. – Goodreads

I honestly didn’t understand what I was reading until after I finished reading it. This book is truly like the other Murakami books I’ve read where it has left me thinking and reflecting on the story (and my life). I even had to go to Goodreads to further analyze the story. Here’s an excerpt from one of the reviews.

It’s a lesson both to be with the one you love, and to love the one you’re with, because they are usually, and should be, the same person.

A Murakami book is like an onion. It has a million layers. You can’t really get anything out of the first layer. You have to take the time to peel each layer to get to the heart of the story. You have to take your time and be patient. The first layer for me was the more superficial one. At first, I couldn’t relate with the protagonist,  Hajime, because here was a character who seemingly had everything in his life – a wife, children, and a successful business and yet there he was wanting more. A perfect life but he was still longing for his first love.

south of the border west of the sun (1)

But as I peeled back each and every layer, I see a more complex love story. It wasn’t just about a man longing for his first love, it was about a man who had a void in his heart who believes that this woman would complete him. It wasn’t because he didn’t love his wife or kids, it was just because there was something missing in his life. He just wants to be complete.

south of the border west of the sun (2)

The final layer of this book was the part where this woman suddenly disappears as if she was never there. Was it real? Did she really come back into his life or was this all part of his imagination? This is the part where you question every single thing. Did he go through all of that so he can realize to appreciate what he has now and stop living in the past?

south of the border west of the sun (3)

I am going to be honest and tell you that this book confused me. I wasn’t able to fully understand it the first time I read it. I had to read other people’s review of the book to develop my own understanding of it. I thought it was only a shallow story about a man and his first love but the more reviews I read the more I appreciated the lesson Haruki wanted to impart with this book. My short and sweet understanding of the story is this: There are different types of love we come across in our lives. Sometimes we let go because we are afraid but our fear shouldn’t stop us. We should fight for it or else we’ll end up with regrets. Love is truly powerful. We can build beautiful things with love but at the same time, we can also destroy and hurt people because of it. Our self-centeredness and selfishness can do this. This story teaches us to be careful of who and how we love. In the end, everybody has the capacity to love and hurt others that’s why we have to be careful – protect yourself but don’t protect yourself too much that you’d end up missing out.

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To keep it short and simple: I'm thirty+ years old. Still plenty young, but not as young as I used to be.


      1. ang haba kasi. Ang bagal ng usad pero tama ka about sa patience haha siguro kung Murakami book dapat patient talaga pag babasahin kasi ang tagal ng mga ganap.

        Liked by 1 person

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