I was recently on holiday, so I decided to take a number of short books with me to fly through during the slower moments. A friend of mine gifted me The Guest Cat by Takashi Hiraide a year ago because of my obsession for cats, writers and anything Japanese. Considering that this book is about a married Japanese couple who are both writers, and chose to invite a local cat into their home, it was clear that this book ticked three different boxes for me. I knew I was going to enjoy this book going into it but I didn’t think it would leave such a lasting impression.
The Guest Cat is not to be looked at as a book with a captivating story and a satisfying outcome. Instead, it’s a statement about life and the trials we face in adulthood. In the book, the married couple who are renting a property are struggling to make ends meet, especially as the husband has left a full-time job to devote himself to writing.
As they struggle with their inner-demons, they are visited by a cat from one of the owners in the neighbourhood. Neither husband nor wife considers themselves cat lovers, but as the cat that they chose to call Chibi continues to visit their property daily, they form a bond with her to the point that Chibi brings meaning to their lives.
They begin offering the cat food, which turns into playing ball with Chibi on a daily basis, which then eventually leads to Chibi sometimes sleeping with them during the night. They begin to expect Chibi every day and look forward to it. One day Chibi doesn’t visit them and this leads to a turning point in the book.
For a book written in Japanese, The Guest Cat flows nicely in English. The writing has an almost poetic feel to it that’s easy to consume. I got through the book in two short sittings, but I believe that faster readers could finish it within an hour.
The end of the book creates an ambiguous mystery for the reader to ponder over. I think it was a nice touch that will leave us wondering about Chibi long after we’ve finished reading the book. It’s an ending that has led to some wonderful speculation in review sections (on Goodreads and Amazon).
The Guest Cat is the perfect book to fit in between other books and it has me wanting to read more work from Japanese authors such as Takashi Hiraide. It was a delightful read that made me wish I had a feline friend of my own.
Buy the book (US)