The story is about a Japanese man who works for a sporting goods company in Tokyo. He returns from a business trip a day early to find his wife in bed with a colleague from his company. Not as upset about it as he thinks he should be, he leaves takes refuge at his aunt’s home as she is moving to the countryside for retirement. He takes over her café and turns it into a bar.
Things are good for a while. He plays jazz records on the stereo. A stray gray cat adopts his bar and is good luck. He has some regular customers, including the mysterious Kamita (who is very precise about what his name means – Kami for god, ta for field). One day the bar is bothered by a couple of yakuza, but Kamita takes care of them. Kino isn’t to ask how. But then: Kino sleeps with a woman who is victim of abuse, but she returns to his abuser. The cat disappears. Kino’s wife comes to settle their divorce and apologizes. Snakes start appearing. Kamita comes by and tells Kino he needs to leave for a while and that he should send postcards to his aunt without messages. Kamita will tell him when it is safe to return. Kino does leave, but he hunkers down in a small hotel. There is an insistent knocking at the door and a voice whispers in Kino’s ear. He realizes that in fact he was hurt by what his wife did to him.
Although I haven’t read a lot of Murakami, this feels pretty typical. The mysterious cat, for example, shows up a lot, I gather. I don’t think I have any more to add, but if you Murakami fans out there could offer some guidance, we’d appreciate it.