The Travelling Cat Chronicles, by Hiro Awikawa (Random House UK, 2017)
In The Travelling Cat Chronicles, the reader is introduced to Nana, a male cat with an odd name. The name is given to him by Satoru, the man who saves Nana’s life after a bad car accident. The two become fast friends and live together until, for reasons that aren’t explained until much later in the book, Satoru needs to give Nana away.
We are taken on a beautiful journey across Japan as Satoru drives his silver van with Nana sitting beside him, nose pressed up against the window. It is mostly Nana who narrates the story, telling us what he sees as they go from place to place. On their journey, Satoru seeks three old friends and asks them to take in his beloved pet cat, but he won’t tell them why he needs to give Nana up, either.
As we follow this journey, the narrative becomes more complex and takes us into Satoru’s past, to his tragic childhood as it intertwines with the lives of his three friends. Finally, after deciding that none of his friends can take Nana from him, he goes to his Aunt Noriko, who raised him as a young boy. From here I will give no more plot details to avoid spoiling the book.
This novel is heart-wrenching and yet often incredibly funny. It is also inspiring, as it shows us the very best of life – the love between people, and between humans and animals. Satoru is an almost angelic figure, and the cat’s devotion to him, in turn, is admirable. I particularly enjoyed the cat’s perspective, which the author attempts to give yet at the same time compelling his narrator to do the seemingly inexplicable things that cats do. The result is a warm and funny novel.