Saturday, December 4, 2021

Hiro Arikawa - The Travelling Cat Chronicles

It's not the journey that counts, but who's at your side.
Nana is on a road trip, but he is not sure where he is going. All that matters is that he can sit beside his beloved owner Satoru in the front seat of his silver van. Satoru is keen to visit three old friends from his youth, though Nana doesn’t know why and Satoru won’t say.
Set against the backdrop of Japan’s changing seasons and narrated with a rare gentleness and humour, Nana’s story explores the wonder and thrill of life’s unexpected detours. It is about the value of friendship and solitude, and knowing when to give and when to take. TRAVELLING CAT has already demonstrated its power to move thousands of readers with a message of kindness and truth. It shows, above all, how acts of love, both great and small, can transform our lives.

Comment: This book hadn't been in my radar but the last time I went to the library, I brought it me alongside two others. I can now see how well liked it has been by so many readers and I have certainly joined them!

In this short book we follow the journey Nana the cat - the narrator - has done with his owner Satoru while he tries to convince a friend to take Nana in. For some reason, Satoru won't be able to take care of his cat and he wants to find someone he trusts to do so. They travel to three places and in each we see why that person would be a good owner - or not. However, as the journey goes on we learn of why those people are friends with Nana's owner, why is there a bond between them and we also get a simple but sweet experience seeing things from the POV of the cat. What lesson is there to learn throughout all of this? 

Since discovering this book was a novelty for me, I just grabbed it of the shelf by impulse, I had no idea of what it was about or how it would develop. The title caught my eye, it wasn't a big book and that is why I decided to take a chance on it. I'm glad I did for this book may be small on the page count but it's very rich in content.

Basically, this is the story of Nana, the cat, rescued by owner Satoru one time and although reluctantly, he decides to carry on with him, having a special predilection for Satoru's grey van outside. As they get to know one another, they realize companionship and friendship are perfect feelings to have but if they have such a special bond, why would Satoru need to find someone else to take care of Nana? I think the reason is pretty obvious from the start, even though it's only mentioned around half way, but I found it didn't ruin me the experience at all.

The best part of this book was its simplicity. This is a simple story, just the facts and plot and the quiet reflections the narrator allows us to read. The book isn't big in terms of page count and there isn't a lot happening but the small actions we read about have plenty of content. I won't go into spoilers but I was quite surprised by how much empathy I had towards the characters even though they aren't doing much. As Satoru and his cat go on their road trip, they reconnect with people from Satoru's past and by knowing how his relationship used to be, we have a better glimpse of who Satoru is.

In fact, Satoru is the key character of this book, although we see everything through the cat's eyes. Of course there is some fun in the idea of having a cat being the narrator and I liked Nana's prickly personality but it's clear all the time how much Nana is caring for his owner, even if it seems he doesn't. As for Satoru, he is probably one of the most understandable characters one can find in literature, with a peaceful and caring soul and it's not difficult to truly like him and wish the best for his journey.

All this we learn we they interact with those they find in the road trip and by each one we slowly realize why Nana will always be better staying with Satoru, even though Satoru's friends have as many qualities as faults. I think there's some kind of closure in knowing our feelings are set in stone and that once we make up our mind about someone, we can be truthful and dedicated and life can get a more special meaning. I suppose this also has a specific feel since the story ends the way it does, but in general, I believe the aim of this novel is that, to prove there is a bond between those who truly care for each other.

There are some amazing descriptions, which we can attribute to Nana's different way of seeing the world, but if we really think about what he is saying and conveying, beauty and everlasting feelings can be found in so many things, any place and any occasion can feel special, if we share it with someone we like or if we are open to accept those feelings and keep them with us. I was marveled by some scenes and little things Nana shares with us, again sometimes so simple, that they feel pure and without fabrication. This turned out to be a very emotional little story because every detail seemed powerful and strong, even in the small details.

All in all, this was a great reading experience for me. It was quite a good surprise and why sometimes it can pay off to choose random things at the library.
Grade: 9/10

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