The plot is a slow-ravelling two-strander. In the first strand, 15-year-old Kafka Tamura (we never learn his real name) runs away from Tokyo and his sculptor-father who kills cats to make flutes from their souls. Shikoku. Here the cross-gender librarian of a private library, Oshima, and its enigmatic owner, Mrs Saeki, provide the mature-beyond-his-years runaway with employment and a roof. The second strand begins as an X-File recorded by American Occupation forces, and narrates how a group of wartime evacuees foraging for food in the Shikoku mountains glimpsed a possible UFO before losing consciousness for several hours. All subsequently recovered, except for one boy, Nakata, who remained in a coma for some weeks before waking up, as he says, "not very bright", but with the power to talk to cats.