Author: Haruki Murakami| Genre: Short Stories | Pages: 48
One rainy Tokyo night, a waitress’s uneventful twentieth birthday takes a strange and fateful turn when she’s asked to deliver dinner to the restaurant’s reclusive owner. Birthday Girl is a beguiling, exquisitely satisfying taste of master storytelling, published to celebrate Murakami’s 70th birthday.
Usually, I pick up Murakami on a well-planned schedule. That is when I am in a space where my brain is relaxed enough to be doing a taxing chore; that’s what Murakami’s open-ended novels demand of you. But with the Birthday Girl it was different. It was a short-story, and as my readers might know, I do have a thing for short stories. If I had to, I’d pick short-stories leaving behind every other basic need as is expected of human race.
And this one was a treat!
On her 20th birthday, our protagonist has to go into work where she works as a waitress. She is filling in for a colleague who calls in sick. Normally, it is the manager to takes the recluse restaurant owner’s dinner to his room. But today, our birthday girl has to take up the task. She enters the owner’s room with his usual chicken meal without expecting anything unusual about the evening, that is until the owner offers her a birthday present – a wish.
The story as short as it is, is abundant in Murakami’s signature style of leaving a reader with endless possibilities of contemplating a scene, a character, or the end itself. And so is replicated here with ultimate finesse. It is not so much about the birthday girl or the restaurant’s owner, as much as it is about that magical space in which they are both placed, following the girl’s wish.
Now what the wish was is a different mystery altogether, for it is left for the reader to comprehend and contemplate to their wit’s end and every logic you use will be the thread to a unique story from you, which may not necessarily be the actual plot. For me, this bit is almost as exhilarating as it is frustrating, for for weeks I couldn’t come up with a fitting case for a wish and finally, gave in to the author’s literary tyranny – which is to sometimes accept things as they are.
As for the characters, while the birthday girl’s character is not something that’s enticing but the recluse owner’s seems pretty captivating, oozing with a certain charm and mystery one can hardly grow accustomed with without being unnerved. And yet, you want to know him better, perhaps, get inside Murakami’s mind and undo the weave of his character, get right down to the fabric of his enigmatic existence.
The story feels great in every aspect, that is unless you look at some of Murakami’s other works, and that’s when a slight disappointment starts to creep into your veins. You expect more, a lot more, because that’s what gets served when you enter ‘Restaurant Murakami’. You know every pick and morsel is going to be worth it.
Birthday Girl, is a good place to begin with, if you are first-time Murakami reader. His other works tend to get heavy for newbies. If one wishes to acquaint better with his style, the prodigy that he is, I can’t think of a better book than Birthday Girl. It’s got everything a Murakami book is and yet leaves the reader asking for more, painfully so.
If you happen to read ‘Birthday Girl’ or have already read it, do share your thoughts below.