Kafka On The Shore, by Haruki Murakami is, on the surface, about a young boy who runs away from home to figure out his life. While he's gone his father is murdered by an old man. And that's when things get really weird.
Who are the characters?
Kafka Tamura is one of two protagonists, but there are a collection of other prominent characters, and as this book is written in the omniscient PoV, the narration swoops in and out of character's head often.
Kafka is 15, and has an alter-ego named Crow, or, "the boy named Crow." Kafka is actually the Czech word for crow--so there's a connection there.
Nakata is an old, 50s something guy who fell into a coma when he was young and lost his mind. He cannot read or write, doesn't understand past and future, and is just a really strange guy--he talks a lot in third person. Despite all this, he can, for some reason, talk to cats and has made extra money by finding stray cats.
Oshima is in his mid-20s and works at a famous library. He befriends Kafka, but I'll leave it at that, as he's one of the most interesting characters and I wouldn't want to deprive you of the joy of meeting him.
Kafka leaves home to figure out his life. Along the way he meets a young girl named Sakura. One day he wakes up covered in blood, but he can't recall why. At the same time, Nakata, the old man, searches for a cat which leads him to a man's how. The man is killing cats and shopping of their heads. Nakata kills this man--and this is just the beginning. Nakata then goes on a search to find his mind and identity, just as Kafka is doing, though not through a physical journey.
What is the deeper meaning of this book?
This book is an exploration and discovery of the self. It constantly asks characters and its readers, who are we? Why are we? and, why do we do the things we do? This book plumbs philosophy rarely seen within fiction, in an accessible way that expands the world. This book reaches down, underneath the reality we think we share and takes a look at our frail our individual minds truly are.
Who will like this book?
Anyone who's read A Tale For The Time Being by Ruth Ozeki, will like this book. Readers who enjoyed Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell, as well. While it deals with similar concepts of morality and ethics, it approaches these concepts a little more head on.