Saturday, January 12, 2019

The Travelling Cat Chronicles

Title:  The Travelling Cat Chronicles
Author:  Hiro Arikawa (author). Philip Gabriel (translator).
Publication Information:  Berkley. 2018. 288 pages.
ISBN:  0451491335 / 978-0451491336

Book Source:  I received this book through the Penguin First to Read program free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "I am a cat."

Favorite Quote:  "Repeated patterns of childhood behaviour have long-term consequences."

A thirty-some year old man Satoru sets off on a journey to find a home for his cat Nana. Nana was a stray until he was injured. Satoru cared for Nana as a stray and then even more when Nana decided to stay and be Satoru's cat. The journey is narrated from different perspectives including that of Nana the cat. Hence, the name is literal. Nana the cat chronicles their travels.

The journey is literal and figurative. Satoru travels to different people who are or were once a part of his life to see if one of them can provide a home for Nana. This literal journey leads to conversations that travel through Satoru's life, from childhood onward. Finally, in this journey lies the answer to the question of why a relatively young man would need to find a new home for  his beloved pet, who is also truly his only companion. Thinking about it, that question is not hard to answer. There are not many reasons why such a journey would happen. As such, the revelation when it come is not a surprise.

Each stop along Satoru and Nana's journey is a person who influenced and made Satoru the person he is. It begins with a childhood friend and brings up the traumas of that childhood. This episode includes the cat Satoru had as a child. The journey ends with Satoru's aunt.

The story is a sweet one about the connection between a man and his pet and about the unconditional devotion both show to the other. That love is what I will remember about his book. Beyond that, I find myself challenged to connect to the book. Satoru never quite becomes real to me. I see him through Nana's eyes, which see someone almost perfect. Again, that reinfoces the idea of unconditional love. That aside, I don't find myself appreciating Nana's voice as the narrator. By definition, it is an orchestrated voice and as such once again puts reality just a bit too far out of reach.

The sweetness of Satoru and Nana's connection is counterbalanced by a lot of sadness and loneliness in this book. The ventures into Satoru's past include some really sad episodes, including deaths, loss of friendship, and even abuse. "Some people really shouldn't become parents. There's no absolute guarantee when it comes to the love between a parent and their child." These episodes and the nature of Satoru's journey mean that a sadness permeates the entire book.

The disclaimer in a translated book, of course, is a question. Does the book lose something in translation? Unfortunately, that one, I cannot answer.

Perhaps, I should have started this review with another disclaimer that because of an allergy, I am not really a cat person. What drew me to the book was the lovely cover, a chance to read Japanese fiction, and the unusual narrative voice. I wanted to see where it goes. I don't think being a "cat person" is necessary to enjoying this book, but perhaps you may disagree. The idea of a connection between two living beings and the idea of unconditional love go far beyond the fact that Satoru is a man, and Nana is a cat. I will leave the rest, but take that memory from this book.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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