Travelling Cat Chronicles (Arikawa)

The Travelling Cat Chronicles 
Hiro Arikawa, 2015; U.S., 2018 (trans., Philip Gabriel)
Penguin Publishing
288 pp. 

A life-affirming anthem to kindness and self-sacrifice, The Travelling Cat Chronicles shows how the smallest things can provide the greatest joy.

We take journeys to explore exotic new places and to return to the comforts of home, to visit old acquaintances and to make new friends. But the most important journey is the one that shows us how to follow our hearts…

An instant international bestseller and Indie Bestseller, The Travelling Cat Chronicles has charmed readers around the world. With simple yet descriptive prose, this novel gives voice to Nana the cat and his owner, Satoru, as as they take to the road on a journey with no other purpose than to visit three of Satoru's longtime friends. Or so Nana is led to believe…

With his crooked tail—a sign of good fortune—and adventurous spirit, Nana is the perfect companion for the man who took him in as a stray. And as they travel in a silver van across Japan, with its ever-changing scenery and seasons, they will learn the true meaning of courage and gratitude, of loyalty and love. (From the publisher.)

Author Bio
Birth—June 9, 1972
Where—Kochi, Japan
Education—Sonoda Women's University
Awards—Dengeki Novel Prize
Currently—lives in Japan

Hiro Arikawa is a well-known Japanese "light novelist" (Japanese for young adult novels) who has published than a dozen books, including two series: "The SDF" (Self-defense forces) series and "The Library" series. Arikawa was born in Kochi, Japan and attended the Sonoda Women's University, a private women's college in Amagasaki, Japan.

Although considered a light novelist, Arikawa's books—from her second work onwards—have been published as hardbacks and stand alongside more literary works. Her 2006 light novel Toshokan Sensō (The Library War) was named as Hon no Zasshi's number one for entertainment for the first half of 2006, and came 5th in the Honya Taishō for that year, competing against standard adult novels. Two of her works were adapted to film in 2015 and 2016.

Arikawa won the 10th annual Dengeki Novel Prize for new writers for Shio no Machi (Wish on My Precious) in 2003, and the book was published the following year. It was praised for its love story between a heroine and hero divided by age and social status, and for its depiction of military structures.

Arikawa first came to the attention of English-language readers with her 2015 bestseller, The Travelling Cat Chronicles. The work was published in the U.S. in 2018 with solid reviews and brisk sales. (Adapted from Wikipedia. Retrieved 11/28/2018.)

Book Reviews
Anyone who has ever unashamedly loved an animal will read this book with gratitude, for its understanding of an emotion that ennobles us as human beings, whether we value it or not.
Lynne Truss - Guardian (UK)

It’s the wisdom and stoicism of the feline narrator that makes this book such an engaging read. Like Alison Jean Lester’s recent Yuki Means Happiness, it provides a fascinating insight into Japanese culture and traditions, but ultimately it doesn’t matter that it’s about a man and a cat. Like Of Mice and Men or The Kite Runner, Arikawa’s central concern is friendship and the things we’ll do for the people, or animals, that we love.
Irish Times

Continues the Japanese tradition of folkloric tales that celebrate simple values such as self-sacrifice and friendship. It has the warmth, painterly touch, and tenderness of a Studio Ghibli film—and is a delight to read.
Financial Times (UK)

I doubt many readers—as cynical and hardened as they may—will get through it dry-eyed.

The book's greatest strength is that it allows its readers to experience vicarious happiness even as a sense of impending loss begins to creep through the pages.

[Arikawa’s] book stands out within the world of cat literature …and it’s a world worth exploring.

But as simple as both the premise and prose of The Travelling Cat Chronicles, it’s a novel that will leave your heart both comfortably full and utterly raw.

Nana, a stray cat adopted by 30-something Satoru Miyawaki, narrates this lovely tale… [A] touching novel of a brave cat and his gentle, wise human will resonate with lovers of animal tales, quiet stories of friendship, and travelogues alike.
Publishers Weekly

Despite its seeming simplicity, the novel contains surprising depth. Arikawa artfully portrays Nana's "catness," … [pairing him] with the gentle soul of Satoru…. Gentle, soft-spoken, and full of wisdom.
Kirkus Reviews

Discussion Questions
1. The Travelling Cat Chronicles exemplifies the idea that life isn’t about the destination; it’s about the journey. How do both Satoru and Nana show us that life is what we make of it?

2. Friendships come and go, as we all know. Yet friendships are everlasting in this book, despite the years that go by without any contact. Do you think this is true in real life? Aided by social media and how fast communication is now—via e-mail, chat programs, and text messages—have you reached out to someone you were close to many years ago but were no longer in touch with? Did this book make you want to reach out to someone?

3. The idea of being saved is a theme in this book—whether it’s Nana literally being saved from homelessness and hunger by Satoru, or Satoru feeling saved by Nana as Nana brought love into his life. Is there someone in your life, a furry friend or a person, who has saved you?

4. Japanese culture is predominant in the book. Were there aspects of the culture you found particularly fascinating, especially in regard to how Japanese people love their cats? Do you find that the same is true in America?

5. Both Nana and Satoru hold strong memories of enjoying nature together during their travels. Why was it important for Satoru to share these experiences with Nana? What did Nana learn from them?
(Questions issued by the publisher.)

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