Ok, I do have words, but how to use them to explain this book? There's the rub, y'all.
This is my first Murakami novel, and while I'm not necessarily into magical realism-ish, surreal-ish kinds of novels, this one had a (might I say) jaunty quality, an energy that I always associate with Nabokov's Lolita. And yet, that seems strange to say, considering the main character comes across as passive most of the time. It's his attempt to figure out why his life has spiralled out of normalcy that spurs him to action.
I've read a lot of great online discussions of this novel, where people bring up details that others have missed in order to explain a variety of mysteries, including: Who was that dude with no face? What really happened to Kumiko? What exactly was that strange mark on Toru's face? That none of these questions have definitive answers is ok, though, because this novel excels at walking the tightrope between reality and dreams.
Particularly interesting were the historical interludes about Japan's occupation of China during WWII. Strangely enough, I had just finished another novel that dealt with that very thing (Night in Shanghai). So Murakami doesn't just explore the reality/dream duality but also the porousness of the present/past/future triad. No matter how unrelated the disappearance of Toru's cat and Japanese soldiers in Machuria might seem, they are, at least in this novel, nonetheless connected. And that, my friends, is very cool indeed.
You won't be surprised to hear that I'm a fan of the May character, and the inclusion of an online conversation in a pre-2000s novel piqued my interest in literary tech references, but that's a post for another time. Anyway, I'm now hooked on Murakami and have put his other books on my TBR list. If you haven't read Wind-Up Bird yet, go read it.