Last Updated on January 19, 2017, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 437
The narrator of the short story "Chance Traveler" is identified by the author as himself, Haruki Murakami. He says that the story he is about to tell is a true one and begins with a series of thematically related coincidental events.
First, he tells of an experience of wishing a jazz piano player would ask him to request a song. If that happened, Murakami says he would know which songs he would choose: "Star-Crossed Lovers" and "Barbados." These are obscure songs, but he had heard the pianist play them before. His dream was to hear them again, this time during a live performance. Lo and behold, the piano player plays them, as if he had read the narrator's thoughts.
The second incident revolves around the narrator finding a rare record album at an old shop. The title of the album began with the words "10 to 4" and as the narrator is walking out of the store, a stranger asks him what time it is; when Murakami looks at his watch, it is ten minutes before four o'clock. These are simple incidents, but the narrator is impressed with the coincidences.
The next part of the story involves the narrator's friend, a man who tuned pianos. This friend loved to go to a certain coffee shop to read. One day a woman he did not know came to his table to ask what he was reading. Then she pulled out the book she had been reading; the books were the same. A friendship developed from this coincidence, and the woman breaks down one day and tells this man that she is about to go to the hospital because her doctor suspects she has cancer. The man had noticed earlier that this woman had a small mole on her earlobe, and it reminded him of his sister (who had a similar mole). He had not talked to his sister for ten years, and the coincidence of the similar mole made him pick up the phone and call her. He wanted to know if she was all right. It turns out that his sister has also recently been diagnosed with cancer and is about to go to the hospital.
The narrator discusses coincidence, briefly, wondering if coincidence is a sign that there is a god. He hopes there is a god who watches over everyone.
Though Murakami begins this story stating that he has little belief in the occult, themes of mystery and spirituality run through many of his stories, including this one. "Chance Traveler" was published in Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman (2006), a collection of short stories that gained many favorable reviews.
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