Book Review: The Guest Cat |Takashi Hiradie

Written by Japanese poet, Takashi Hiradie, The Guest Cat is a work of simple beauty.

Rumoured to be at least partly autobiographical, the story is about a husband and wife approaching middle age, and feeling the gentle pull of time. It is the summer of 1986 and they rent a small cottage at the bottom of a large house and garden. Next to their house is a path they nickname Lightning Alley and from their neighbour’s yard, a very old Zelkova tree extends its branches to a corner of their new cottage.

In this peaceful home the couple meet Chibi, the neighbour’s cat, and a guest in their lives. As they watch Chibi, play with her, and feed her, they experience a renewal in the wonder and joys of life. For the narrator’s wife, Chibi is a friend, someone who truly understands her and just happened to take the form of a cat. But for the narrator, Chibi is an independent free spirit, a special gift bestowed on them by fate.

As Chibi’s visits become more frequent, the couple begin to question the true ownership of their beloved guest. Is Chibi visiting, or returning home to them each day? What is Chibi like with her owners? Does Chibi reserve a unique part of her personality just for the quiet couple in the cottage on the other side of Lightning Alley?

Death is a recurrent theme in the story, as friends and neighbours grow old and pass, causing the couple to reflect on their own mortality. Even though they experience death and change, the world appears brighter with their Chibi.

Written with soft lyrical beauty interspersed with philosophical pondering, The Guest Cat is about finding little joys when life can seem like a series of random events leading to a sudden end. It’s about finding simple pleasures, like playing a game of ball, in the garden, with a strange cat.

 

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