Saturday, June 29, 2019

The Travelling Cat Chronicles by Hiro Arikawa

Reviewed by Jeanne

Nana is a stray, nameless cat when he first notices the friendly young man who seems to (wisely) wish to make his acquaintance.  But Nana is wily and fiercely independent so he merely allows the man to offer him food.  Then an accident leaves Nana helpless and the young man comes to his rescue.  That’s when he acquires his name—a girl’s name, no less!—and becomes intrigued by Satoru.

Then Satoru has them embark on a journey in his silver van, apparently seeking a home for Nana—something Nana himself has strong opinions about! They meet up with friends from Satoru’s past, and at each stop Nana learns a bit more about his gentle, generous benefactor and begins to understand.

The glowing reviews of the book intrigued me, but I tend to be a bit suspicious of books featuring animals.  Too often it seems that I fall in love with an animal in a book and then weep buckets at the end when the animal dies.  So the first thing I do is check the end:  if the animal lives, I’ll consider reading it.

Nana lives.  We’re good.

Actually, better than good.  It’s been awhile since I really took a book to heart, but I did this one.  Maybe it’s the way the story is told, simply and straight-forwardly, from Nana’s rather unsentimental point of view; maybe it’s the fact the plot, such as it is, unfolds in a slow, gentle pace; maybe it’s meeting the various characters and understanding them, and seeing Satoru from their viewpoints; maybe it’s seeking Japanese culture from an inside view, not someone trying to explain everything.  Maybe it’s that the book takes the traditional structure of having the human learn about the pet and lets the pet learn about the human. Or, more likely, it’s all these things. All I can say is that the book touched me and made me want to be a better person.  I found real tenderness and warmth in these pages, and a generous spirit. And I kept turning pages because I wanted this journey to keep on going and I wanted to be there with them.

Yes, I ended up crying, but sometimes a story is worth all the tears. I’m going to buy my own copy of this book to treasure.

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