Combining the early, straightforward seductions of Norwegian Wood and the complex mysteries of The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, this new novel -- his seventh translated into English -- is Haruki Murakami at his most satisfying and representative best. The scenario is as simple as it is uncomfortable: A male college student falls, and for years remains, in love with a woman whose devotion to Kerouac and an untidy writerly life precludes any personal commitments -- until she meets a considerably older and far more sophisticated businesswoman. It is through this wormhole that she enters Murakami's surreal yet humane universe, to which she serves as guide both for us and the man (now a teacher) who loves her. In the course of her travels from parochial Japan through Europe and ultimately to an island off the coast of Greece, she disappears without trace, leaving only lineaments of her fate: computer accounts of bizarre events and of stories within stories. The teacher, now summoned to assist in the search, experiences his own ominous, haunting visions, which lead him nowhere but home to Japan -- where, under the expanse of deep space and the still-orbiting Sputnik, he finally achieves a true understanding of his beloved. A love story, a missing-person story, a detective story -- all enveloped in a philosophical mystery -- and, finally, a profound meditation on human longing.