Book Review – Coin Locker Babies by Ryu Murakami

Coin Locker Babies

★★★★ 4.5 Stars

“I thought if I were beautiful enough, all my dreams would come true. But you don’t stay beautiful forever. One day you wake up and it’s gone, and then where are you? Dreams are made with blood and sweat and tears.”

A mentally exhausting but still addictive book about two adopted siblings, Hashi and Kiku, who share the bond of abandonment – rescued from coin lockers on the same day as infants. As adults they are fed up with the sick, seedy world and everyone in it and look to destroy it or destroy themselves trying.
It stays twinging in your brain like the bug of Hashi’s fable, crawling up into your thoughts and taking them over. No matter how you feel about it, it is impossible to forget.

Coin Locker Babies can be a deceptively time-consuming novel. It’s only about 400 pages, yet it feels like you are living through these characters’ lives along with them and in real-time. You can sense the brothers’ maddening isolation, vivid anger and frustration which seem to pursue them no matter what they do. Not exactly a cheerful read, but it does have its own delusional beauty.

If you are not familiar with the author, know that he does NOT under any circumstances, shy away from vivid detail. This is a double-sided skill which can make for either a heavenly scene or a stomach-churning horror, or possibly even both on the same page. (The concert scenes come to mind.)
Misanthropy and violence are aplenty, but in this case they aren’t meaningless or glorified – but used to show how and why someone could reach that point to where they feel nothing but loneliness and hatred.

From reading most of his short novellas, I don’t think larger novels like this are really Murakami’s forte, in all honesty. While it’s a great book, there are some bizarre scenes which get darker and higher levels of weird as the book goes on and feel like padding.

Hashi and Kiku are believable but… not healthy people, to say the least. Both of their obsessions – Hashi’s with sound and Kiku’s with his mother, only throw them deeper into their madness until they are barely relateable as human any longer.
I wasn’t crazy about Anemone as a female lead, either. Much of her personality is doing nonsensical things, and the crocodile she keeps is a pet is a more likeable character.
I liked Neva much more and felt much worse for her, having to pretty much run Hashi’s life for him while he apparently has no issue with abandoning her on random whims. Even in the end, she takes the blame for what he becomes, as no one else will.

Writing – 4.5/5
Characterization – 4/5
General – 4.5/5

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