Home / Books / Birthday Girl by Haruki Murakami | Short story Review

Birthday Girl by Haruki Murakami | Short story Review

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While novel has been the reigning format in fiction for decades now, short stories have held their ground even though their numbers are diminishing. There are classics in the genre that are all-time favorites with readers of authors like O. Henry. The stories leave deep impact not only because of their surprising twists at the end, but also because they sometimes leave more questions with their open endings that keep readers wondering.

Recently, I had a chance to read a short-story called Birthday Girl. First released on the 70th birthday of its well-loved author Haruki Murakami, the story is translated from Japanese to English by Jay Rubin and published by Harvill Secker. So here are my thoughts on it on behalf of Thinkerviews.

Book Cover:

Being an entry point to the fictional world explored within, the cover page of a book plays a vital role in making the first impression of the book. And, we humans, like to imagine stories from the cover images.

Birthday Girl by Haruki Murakami | Cover Page

Birthday Girl by Haruki Murakami | Cover Page

As you can see, a small booklet format is chosen for this poignant story with an elegant white background, featuring the night sky filled with stars. One is falling through this sky. Symbolizing how all around world, it is common to make a wish if you witness a falling star.
I like the cover page….


We meet a young girl on her twentieth birthday. She is a student in Tokyo, living by herself and working part-time in an Italian restaurant. She recently had a heartbreak when her relationship with her boyfriend since school broke down. She had wanted to take today off and had arranged for another part-time waitress to take over her shift.

But, her colleague is sick, and so here she is, all alone on her birthday, working, no one has even said ‘Happy Birthday’ to her yet.
The restaurant is owned by an old men, who lives upstairs. His dinner is delivered -almost religiously – by the restaurant manager to him every evening. But today the tradition breaks. The manager is taken to hospital due to a sudden bout of sickness and charges the young waitress with the task of delivering the dinner.

She follows the instructions and goes up with the food trolley, to meet the elderly man in stylish clothes. He invites her in and they get talking. Once he learns that it is her twentieth birthday, he decides to give her a present.

The present is that the young girl may wish for anything – anything…and he’ll make that one wish come true. But she cannot take it back, once it is granted.

Does she believe him? What does she wish for?

Views And Reviews:

What is the most common word associated with birthdays? – A wish…A birthday wish, wish you a happy birthday, make a wish on your birthday, make a wish while you blow the candles on your birthday cake….and so on. Countless ways to ask for someone’s happiness on their special days, hoping that good things come to them and the darkness and shadows stay away from their lives.

And so we are drawn into this lovely tale as we meet the girl who is standing at that point where she is facing hard life of an adult rather than the magical fairyland of childhood and wishes. She is alone and friendless and has just lost the man she has thought to be the love of her life so far. And she meets this elderly gentleman, who uses the phrase ‘if you wish’ as part of polite conversation almost constantly. Not only that, she suddenly finds out that she may after all be able to make a wish and see it come true.

What should she wish for – being rich, being pretty? While she would like it, she has already started to wonder about the nature of life:

Of course I’d like to be prettier or smarter or rich. But I really can’t imagine what would happen to me if any of those things came true. They might be more than I can handle. I still don’t really know what life is all about. I don’t know how it works.

But does anybody know how life works? When you are just beginning and you have your whole life stretching beyond you, what can you wish that makes it all come together? Murakami has left that question for the readers to figure out and everyone has their own answer.

Did she wish to change places with the old man and is now talking to him after years from that birthday? Did she make a wish to meet her future self in this instant here and now? Or did she wish that she never wanted to wish for anything again as long as she lived? Will her life become better if she didn’t yearn for things so deeply? There are many a possible answers as to what the girl really wished for and who the narrator of the story is, and I am sure you’ll come up with some of your own interpretations as you read this story.
But I wholeheartedly agree with the following thought:

No matter what they wish for, no matter how far they go, people can never be anything but themselves.


A beautifully written, intriguing story that comprises of multiple layers and will give you a lot to think about 🙂

ThinkerViews Rating:

Around 8.5 out of 10.

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Over To You:

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