My first exposure to Murakami was “Norwegian Wood“, which was sad in parts but never surreal. 2002’s “Sputnik Sweetheart” had me going “Oh no, not again!” when a main character seemingly disappeared to “the other side” (around 3/4 through). That “other side” was a parallel universe; one where she and her love object could have a physical affair because her adored had never suffered from a trauma in “World #1”. “Sputnik” also became way more wordy at this point.
After finishing the book out I immediately dove into the welcoming, earthbound arms of a Richard Russo novel (“Bridge of Sighs“).
I loved “Norwegian Wood” and also recently read and enjoyed “The Strange Library,” a novella by Murakami–with illustrations by graphic designer Chip Kidd–that had a touch of the surreal, but not as much as “Sputnik” and definitely not enough to drive me to any of Russo’s slowly-developed and non-surreal worlds.
He wouldn’t be Murakami without writing that explores or begins to explore the flip side of reality. Maybe I need to read his memoir, “What I Talk About When I Talk About Running“, next.