For the Japanese Literature Challenge 12: The Travelling Cat Chronicles by Hiro Arikawa

There are so many things in life that are beyond our control.

I didn’t always love cats. But since my son’s girlfriend gave him a tabby that was no bigger than my fist when she came into our home, I have come to understand the attraction obsession.

Told largely from the point of view of the cat, Nana, we see the imagined perspective of the mostly white cat (“with the number-eight markings and the crooked tail like a seven”) who was found on the hood of a silver van and taken into the home of Saturo.

Because of unavoidable circumstances which make it impossible for him to keep the cat, he drives Nano to several possible homes in the hopes of finding a new owner. But, we know that neither one wants to leave the other. And, as Saturo’s character becomes revealed through the interactions between him and his friends, a mounting sorrow grows in my heart.

It is the longest time I have ever taken to read a book which is less than 300 pages. I set it down to let my feelings subside a bit until I can pick it up again…

My students gave me a tissue box decorated to look like the book Charlotte’s Web one year. “Because you always cry when you read it,” they said.

Perhaps the best books about people and animals are like that.

(Thanks to Penguin Random House for my copy of The Traveling Cat Chronicles.)

20 thoughts on “For the Japanese Literature Challenge 12: The Travelling Cat Chronicles by Hiro Arikawa

  1. Oh, my. First, I thought I wanted to read it. Then, I decided perhaps I didn’t. I started thinking about my precious kitty — gone almost a year now — and I’m not sure I’m ready for any sadness involving a kitty cat. But it sounds wonderfully intriguing, as well. I’ve made a note of it for a little farther down the road.

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    • I can surely understand your reticence; I cannot bear sorrowful stories sometimes. And yet this is a truly lovely book: hopeful and meaningful as well as realistically sorrowful. I think if you read it, you will be ultimately encouraged.

      Those dear kitties…they come into our lives and reside as family members within our hearts, don’t they? Such was Saturo and Nana’ s relationship, a truly special friendship such as I’m sure you shared with your dear kitty. (As I do with our Samantha.) xo

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  2. I’m more of a dog-lover, but I have had cats both as an adult and child, so I’m curious about this story. I got a copy from my library and am eager to read it as soon as I finish Whiskey When We’re Dry. Glad you enjoyed it.

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    • I was thrilled to hear (even earlier) that you had a copy of this Japanese best seller. It is so tender, and while I found it a bit “choppy” at first, I read the second half almost frantically. Would love to share thoughts when you finish. xo

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  3. I feel exactly the same as Shoreacres above. I had to say ‘goodbye’ to my beloved companion in January 2018, and am now living solo, sans feline companion. But must admit the book sounds tempting. Thanks for your review. I love the book jacket.

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    • Alison, my heart to you at the loss of your kitty. I so understand that particular loneliness one has upon losing a beloved creature. When we lost our dog several years ago, my husband said Never again, and then ae bought a Lab within six months. I can’t imagine losing our two kitties with whom we’ve lived for 12 years. Be tempted by this book, though, because SPOILER: (beware if you don’t want to know!!!) the kitty doesn’t die.

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    • There is a certain appeal, isn’t there, in a deeply moving story. At least it isn’t like the rash of American “thrillers” out the past several years which are all about the girl who…fill in the blank.

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    • Ha, now that I’ve gone back to look at my review, I see I said this to a friend: “This is what I said to a friend, below my review: “I think what was really surprising about this book is that it could have been depressing and heartbreaking, but it wasn’t. It was handled so delicately and with hope. It really is a lovely story. I wouldn’t have liked it if it broke my heart but the ending made it just about perfect.” So, not totally heartbreaking. Do you agree?

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      • You said it perfectly, Nancy. It was handled delicately and with hope. There was so much I wanted to say, and yet didn’t feel I could because of spoiling it foe others, but that whole image (for me) of Saturo coming to visit Nana after he died, the whole idea of being together again in heaven was wonderdul! Ultimately, it was story of hope. 🐱💖

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  5. I think I felt the same way you did, as I read this book. Lots of trepidation about what was to come. But, in the end, it was a heartbreaking story but also beautiful and uplifting. It’s probably my favorite Japanese cat story. They do tend to be pretty harsh but the ending was really lovely.

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  6. I blubbered like a baby with this book (too) but as you say, it’s beautiful, hopefully and that cat is just so endearing. The Japanese love their cats, that’s for sure.

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