The Guest Cat

As the winner of Japan’s Kiyama Shohel Literary Award, Takashi Hiraide’s expressive novella The Guest Cat is unabashedly mellow storytelling with an elegant gentleness that puts the reader immediately in a restful and reflective state. Imparting the value of communing with others and taking note of the small joys and minutia of intimate moments, you see that life can be condensed down to savoring a morsel of food or reverently watching a dragonfly alight on a tree branch.

Relating a simple story of a couple who move to a small guesthouse on a larger estate in the suburbs of Tokyo, the primary focus on their placid, introverted lives as freelance stay-at-home copy editors gently shifts to a visiting cat and the effect he has on their relationship.

As the cat makes itself welcome to the house through an unexpected appearance followed by routine daily visitations and eventually as an essential element to their lives, it becomes a catalyst for changing the psychological perspectives of the protagonist and his wife. What was once drab is now vivid; the dull intriguing; and the ennui inspiring. As their sense of appreciation grows, they begin to relate to each other in a refreshed way as well as to the world outside, including their landlord, neighbors, nature and the passage of time.

Mr. Hiraide, known for his poetry, uses this genre to great effect in composing prose that has a poetic quality and it made me linger over passages and imagine fully the world I was reading about. I felt transported by an immediate feeling of recognition established by description and mood. The novella is like a wonderful watercolor—just enough fine detail to get an image but misty enough to let your imagination do the rest.

You can sense the seasoned craft behind the easeful writing and this was my favorite part—seeing the delicate structure of the writing reach such simplicity and extolling that with pleasure and poignancy.

The Guest Cat is a treat for the soul—and, like the cat in the story, one you may want to revisit again and again.

The Guest Cat is available at Amazon and independent booksellers.