Phil Lewis | Bookshop Buzz: Love, loss, and a last road trip
Returning home one day, Satoru finds a cat sleeping on the hood of his silver van. The cat is fiercely independent at first, but Satoru slowly gains its confidence. After the cat is struck by a car, Satoru takes it to the vet and invites it into his home while the cat recuperates. He names the cat Nana — Japanese for seven — because the cat's crooked tail looks a bit like the number seven.
So begins their new life together. As Nana observes, "Satoru was the perfect roommate for a cat, and I was the perfect roommate for a human."
But life doesn't always work out the way you think it will, and one day Satoru comes home and apologizes to Nana.
"I'm really sorry it's come to this. I never intended to let you go," Satoru says. "Shall we go?"
Satoru and Nana embark upon a journey, ostensibly to find a new home for Nana. They travel the length and breadth of Japan, from Kyushu in the south, to Hokkaido in the north, stopping here and there to meet Satoru's childhood friends. They meet The Man Without a Wife, The Unsentimental Farmer, and stop at Sugi and Chikako's Hotel for Pets. At each stop, we learn more about Satoru's past and sense that something heavy looms in the future. And we revel in Nana's mischievous engineering of the situation at each place to make sure he is deemed unsuitable for adoption and so gets to stay with Satoru a little longer.
Then there's the heart-breaking Chapter 3 .
"The Travelling Cat Chronicles" is not just for cat lovers. It is an endearing reflection on the meaning of life and the importance of relationships. Arikawa deftly weaves together the different pieces of this story to create a beautiful narrative on friendship and compassion. It's a delightful tale.
Born in Kochi, in western Japan, Hiro Arikawa now lives in Tokyo. She won the Dengeki Novel Prize for new writers in 2003 for her novel "Wish on My Precious." "The Travelling Cat Chronicles" is soon to be made into a film.
Phil Lewis is the co-owner of The Bennington Bookshop. "The Travelling Cat Chronicles" is available at The Bennington Bookshop, or can be purchased online here: https://www.benningtonbookshop.com/book/9780451491336
TALK TO US
If you'd like to leave a comment (or a tip or a question) about this story with the editors, please email us. We also welcome letters to the editor for publication; you can do that by filling out our letters form and submitting it to the newsroom.