Sumire is an aspiring writer who survives on a family stipend and the creative input of her only friend, the novel's male narrator and protagonist, known in the text only as 'K'. K is an elementary school teacher, 25 years old, and in love with Sumire, though she does not quite share his feelings. At a wedding, Sumire meets an ethnic Korean woman, Miu, who is 17 years her senior. The two strike up a conversation, and Sumire finds herself attracted to the older woman. This meeting and the ensuing relationship between the women leads to Sumire changing: she starts wearing nicer clothes, gets a better apartment, and even quits smoking however, she also develops a writer's block. K suddenly begins to receive letters from Europe written by Sumire. With them, he is able to track Sumire's and Miu's business travels across the continent. In her last letter, Sumire mentions that instead of coming home as originally planned, she and Miu are to spend some extra time on a Greek island vacationing. The story truly starts...Murakami brilliantly explores familiar themes such as the effects of unrequited love, growing up emotionally stunted in an overwhelmingly conformist society, and the conflict between following one's dreams and clamping down on them in order to assimilate into society.