Book Review: The Traveling Cat Chronicles by Hiro Arikawa

Translated by Philip Gabriel, Published by Berkeley 2017

A lot of Japanese authors and their novels have crossed my path lately, and The Traveling Cat Chronicles by Hiro Arikawa is one of them. It’s inviting cover and petite size suggest a light easy read, but this tiny book is packed with humor, emotion and a heartwarming journey.

Set in Japan, Arikawa weaves a story of companionship and forgiveness and the invisible strings that tie us together. The story is centered around a man named Kosuke and narrated by Nana the stray cat who finds himself Kosuke’s grudging, but loyal companion.

Kosuke, we learn, is a young man who has experienced tragedy and much transition in his life. When he finds Nana lounging on his van’s hood, Nana reminds Kosuke of a cat from his past. He patiently woos Nana and they develop a mutual respect for each other. One day Kosuke sets out on a mission to find a new home for Nana––for reasons we don’t learn until much late––and Kosuke beings a journey revisiting people from his past.

Nana is an intuitive being. He knows that Kosuke doesn’t really want to give him up so he thwarts Kosuke’s every attempt. As Kosuke visits old friends hoping they will take his cat in, we travel back in time to when and how Kosuke first met these individuals and learn of the impact he had on their lives and they on his.

How Did I Hear About This Book?

This was another random buy at the book store. It was sitting right there by the register when I went to check out with a few other books. I’m so easy for store marketers. Yes, I also buy the random stuff hanging up between shelves at the grocery store.

Did The Opening Pages Draw Me In?

“I am a cat. As yet, I have no name.”

Intrigued by this sly, arrogant narrator, I enjoyed reading about the circumstances by which Nana met Kosuke and how he, a stray cat, agreed to live with Kosuke as a pet.

What Kept Me Reading?

In the following chapter, the author advances five years to when Kosuke must find someone else to take Nana in. Of course, I wanted to know why he needed to find a new owner! Not only that, but the stories that unfold as Kosuke visits his childhood friends are touching and reveal much about Kosuke’s character and how he affected the lives of all he came to know.

How Predictable Was The Outcome?

Well, I can’t say I was all that surprised, but the getting there was heartwarming and funny. Nana has quite a sense of humor.

Recommend for Book Club?

Sure! The Traveling Cat Chronicles is a delightful read; poignant, yet hopeful. Pet lovers, especially cat lovers, are sure to enjoy it. I am not a cat lover, yet I enjoyed it very much.

Final Thoughts

I love the subtleties in this novel. The things that are left unsaid speak just as loudly as the words on the page. The tender story of love between a pet and its owner, the connections people make past and present, the misunderstandings that we carry with us over the years … it is all here in The Traveling Cat Chronicles.


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