When I was a boy, I’d lie on my back on the summer grass and watch the massive clouds form and reform, slow and silent, and I’d try to grasp the story I imagined they were telling me. I’d watch the jester’s head that gradually opened its mouth to become a devouring monster, inexorably moving to engulf the frog or flower that bobbed nearby. I read Haruki Murakami’s magical tale the same way I watched the clouds. The Windup Bird Chronicle changes shape as it moves along, and the prosaic apartment life of Mr. Okada morphs into a dream, a dark and magical journey. Within that darkness, we see some of the gruesome days of Japan’s modern history, as Mr. Okada, who set out to do no more than find his lost cat, encounters powerful villains, the saving graces of psychic helpers, and the ominous, mysterious stuff of nightmares. At the end of the story, in spite of the unreal nature of his journey–or maybe because of it–I was surprised to find how very warmly I felt toward Mr. Okada, whose great ordeal was behind him. He had attained some sense of peace, and I was glad.