“The Traveling Cat Chronicles” by Hiro Arikawa is a story narrated by a cheeky cat whose pert narrative is touching, humorous, and — to those who know cats — pure feline. This is the story of Nana, the supremely wise cat, and Satoru, the supremely wise human who befriends and rescues Nana. Or does Nana rescue Satoru?
Contained in this charming book are stories about Satoru’s life as he travels to visit old friends in search of a new home for Nana. He tells each friend that although he loves Nana dearly, he must find a new home for his beautiful cat. He doesn’t explain why, although readers will begin to suspect the reason by the middle of the book.
Satoru’s life has not been easy, but in spite of setback after setback, his demeanor and his persona are supremely selfless, sweet and. generous. Each story serves to showcase both Satoru and how the actions he took during his life served as models for his friends, but also how his love for Nana, and the love that Nana returns, fulfill them both.
Cat lovers know that the sage wisdom Nana imparts is just what one might expect from a cat. For example, when declaring his aversion to staying with Kosuke, a friend of Satoru, Nana says, “I am an exceptionally wise cat, but there’s no way I’m going to be part of that drama, burdened with all those depressing human relationships as they fondle me. It’s more than I want to take on.”
The narration is part of what makes the story such a touching and emotional one. Nana the cat narrates part of it, and his observations and communication with other animals provide some of the lighter moments in the story. But also, be prepared for some heart-wrenching moments.
The reader will learn about the young Satoru when he rescues Hachi, his first cat, who strikingly resembles Nana. Readers will share the emotions Satoru feels when circumstances dictate that he must be parted from that cat and the guilt he feels when he cannot return to visit Hachi and check on his wellbeing.
To those who doubt that a cat can feel that strongly for a human, be assured that it’s all true. Like dogs, some cats love everyone, some dislike everyone, and some become fiercely attached to one (or two) people exclusively. They deign to allow others to stroke them, maybe, but reserve their affection and love for a select few. Those of us who have known a cat like that are lucky if we are the ones on the receiving end of that attachment.
A nod must be given to Philip Gabriel, the translator. Unlike some translated books which may seem a bit awkward, this one reads beautifully. The words, and more importantly the phrases and dialogue, flow beautifully.
In my humble opinion, the title does not do justice to the story. This is a deeply thoughtful book that will appeal to many — cat lovers or not. Although if one is searching for a gift for a cat lover, look no further.
Please note: This review is based on the final, hardcover book provided by Berkley Books, the publisher, for review purposes.