In the book the protagonist, Hajime, as a child has an intense relationship with Shimamoto. The two part ways and we follow Hajime as he quickly grows up, gets a job, gets married and has children. Then he meets Shimamoto again and their bond causes tension in Hajime’s life.
The book echoes Norwegian Wood in that the protagonist has an intense relationship and other relationships that are not as intense. In some ways the book can be seen to be slightly misogynistic and uncaring about women. Norwegian Wood seems like one take on the situation with a different ending while South of the Border, West of the Sun is another.
Norwegian Wood is the better book, but South of the Border, West of the Sun is worth reading. Murakami’s other books that deal with very different situations, such as the highly amusing Kafka on the Shore are probably better reads.