Book Review: ‘Birthday Girl’ by Haruki Murakami - A Treasure-Full Read

Source - Culturefly

Birthday Girl is a small read which one can finish in an hour while sipping on hot coffee. This is one of those books which will make the reader decide its conclusion. 

If you want an interesting read which makes your mind boggle for a while, the ‘Birthday Girl’ by Haruki Murakami would be the perfect read for you.


Book’s Name - Birthday Girl

Author’s Name - Haruki Murakami

Genre - Fiction

Language - English (Translated by Jay Rubin)


Birthday Girl is about a woman who spends her 20th birthday by working for a shift at an Italian restaurant situated in Japan. The story has the following characters, the manager, the owner and the other fellow workers.

The owner of the restaurant is a rather suspicious character as no one has ever seen him apart from the manager. The manager delivers food to the owner's house everyday at 8 pm.

On the protagonist’s 20th birthday due to the manager's tormenting health, he asks the woman to deliver the food instead. The woman after reaching the owners house asks if she can deliver the food, to which the owner says ‘Yes, if you wish’. This sounds a bit strange to the woman. 

The story takes its plot when the owner asks the woman to make a wish for her birthday and says that it would be granted by him. What wish does the woman make?

About the Author

Source - NYTimes

Haruki Murakami was born in Kyoto, Japan, in 1949. He grew up in Kobe and then moved to Tokyo, where he attended Waseda University. After college, Murakami opened a small jazz bar, which he and his wife ran for seven years. 

His first novel, Hear the Wind Sing, won the Gunzou Literature Prize for budding writers in 1979. He followed this success with two sequels, Pinball, 1973 and A Wild Sheep Chase, which all together form “The Trilogy of the Rat.”

About the Story

Birthday Girl is written in a ‘frame narrative’ style, which means a story within the story. In this book the protagonist, the birthday girl, is telling the story of what happened to her on her 20th birthday to the narrator( The story does not reveal the identity of the narrator). 

We come to know that on the day of her 20th birthday she was asked to deliver food to the owner's house as the manager was supposedly ill. No one apart from the manager has previously seen the owner’s face, so naturally this caused a sense of nervousness within the birthday girl.

Upon reaching his house (room 604 of the same building where the restaurant was), she asks if she can deliver his order. To this the owner had a strange reply saying, ‘Yes, if you wish’. After settling the owner asks the girl to wait a couple of minutes and asks for her age. He comes to know that it was her 20th birthday that day and wishes her. 

Soon after, surprisingly enough, the owner asks the girl if she has a wish for her birthday. He promises her that the wish would be granted. However, he points it out to make the wish cautiously as she would not be able to take it back. This comes off as a shock to the girl.

In this story we don't get to know what she originally wished for, but upon hearing her wish, the owner says ‘That's an unusual wish for a girl of that age’ further he says that she could have asked for beauty or smartness instead. To this the girl replies with, ‘Of course I’d like to be prettier or smarter or rich. But I really can’t imagine what would happen if any of those things came true.’. 

After listening to this story, the narrator asks two questions, first being, “ Did your wish come true?” and second being, “Do you regret wishing for it and would be happy if you wished for something else?”. 

The woman replies to the first question with a yes and a no, which leaves the reader with even more confusion. To the second question she describes her current life of having a husband with two kids and driving around in an Audi which doesn't sound like a bad lifestyle to the narrator.

The story ends with the girl asking the narrator what he/she would wish if he/she were in her place instead. The narrator unfortunately could not come up with any wish and replied with “I’m too far away now from my twentieth”. The girl in reply to this says, “It is because you have already made your wish”.


There are obviously a lot of questions the reader is left with after reading this book. This is where I think the reader is responsible for answering his/her questions. The common questions one comes up with after reading this are, “What did she wish for?”, “Who is the narrator?”, “What did she mean when she answered with yes and a no?” and many as such! 


However, my perspective towards these questions are as follows:

1. What did she wish for?

I think the birthday girl wishes that she never has to wish for anything in her life and can enjoy the spontaneity of life in its raw form, which explains the yes and no question too.

2. Who is the narrator?

The narrator is again whose identity is hidden. It could be the birthday girl itself from the future or it could just be Haruki Murakami himself. It is again based on the reader’s imagination.

3. What did she mean when she answered with a yes and a no?

This question is partially answered in the book itself when she says that she doesn't know what life has coming up for her. She says she doesn't know how things are going to work out in the end. Hence, it is a wish which takes time to come true.

The Bottom Line

It is an extremely interesting read which will make you answer your own questions. Some readers might be frustrated with Murakami hiding the birthday girl’s wish but for me the idea of not revealing the birthday girl’s wish is a legitimate thing to do as we know from the common ideology that , “if you tell someone what you wish for, it does not come true.” 

The book is a great small read and I would definitely recommend this book to all the readers out there!

My ratings for the book -  4 on 5

You can read the book here -  Birthday Girl by Haruki Murakami 

Written By - Subham Sinha

Edited By - Umme-Aiman