by Hiro Arikawa
Translated by Philip Gabriel
My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Sometimes you have to leave behind everything you know to find the place you truly belong…
Nana the cat is on a road trip. He is not sure where he’s going or why, but it means that he gets to sit in the front seat of a silver van with his beloved owner, Satoru. Side by side, they cruise around Japan through the changing seasons, visiting Satoru’s old friends. He meets Yoshimine, the brusque and unsentimental farmer for whom cats are just ratters; Sugi and Chikako, the warm-hearted couple who run a pet-friendly B&B; and Kosuke, the mournful husband whose cat-loving wife has just left him. There’s even a very special dog who forces Nana to reassess his disdain for the canine species.
But what is the purpose of this road trip? And why is everyone so interested in Nana? Nana does not know and Satoru won’t say. But when Nana finally works it out, his small heart will break…
I am a cat. As yet, I have no name. There’s a famous cat in our country who once made this very statement.
I have no clue how great that cat was, but at least when it comes to having a name I got there first.
My first word of praise for this book goes to the very first sentences, which makes reference to I Am a Cat.‘s
It was almost a given that anyone familiar with Japanese literature would associate a book that’s narrated by a cat with Soseki’s classic. Arikawa is clever enough to recognize this and address it immediately so that it’s made clear that this is an altogether different story.
The Travelling Cat Chronicles introduces us to Nana, a stray cat who meets and slowly befriends kind-hearted cat-lover Satoru. Nana becomes Satoru’s pet after he is badly injured from being hit by a car. Satoru takes him in and nurses him back to health, and they come to understand each other, forming an unbreakable bond.
The adventure itself starts when Satoru discovers he can no longer keep Nana for an unnamed (yet later obvious) reason; so the two embark on a journey to visit some of Satoru’s closest friends in hopes that one of them will agree to give Nana a good home.
There are three choices:
1) Kosuke is Satoru’s early childhood friend who has a difficult father to deal with as well as a marriage that’s failing.
2) Yoshimine is a farmer who sees cats as little more than rat catchers, and lives a rather seculded life. He and Satoru are like brothers, and Yoshimine seems more than happy to take in Nana.
3) Suki and Chikako run a Hotel for Pets, and would love to make Nana a new addition to thier home. Suki has a few insecurities about Satoru and often wonders if his wife would have prefered Satoru over him.
So which one do you think it will be?
Each friend that Satoru visits has a moving back story with Satoru, which gives us a deeper understanding of Satoru’s character and why he is so determined to make his time with Nana last as long as he can.
I won’t lie. This book had me in tears! You might want to keep a box of tissues handy if you give this book a read, because it will make you feel some deep emotions. I don’t want to say too much more because I’m afraid of giving away too much. I’ll just close by saying that this is worth the read, even if you aren’t a cat person!
“My story will be over soon. But it’s not something to be sad about. As we count up the memories from one journey, we head off on another. Remembering those who went ahead. Remembering those who will follow after. And someday, we will meet all those people again, out beyond the horizon.”
“When an animal’s life is over, it rests where it falls, and it often seems to me that humans are such worriers, to think of preparing a place for people to sleep when they are dead. If you have to consider what’s going to happen after you die, life becomes doubly troublesome.”
Final Rating: 5 out of 5 stars