The Guest Cat by Takashi Hiraide is a beautifully written short novel about a couple in their late thirties, who may or may not be the author and his wife, living in the guesthouse on an estate owned by an elderly couple in a quiet part of Tokyo in the late 1980s. The protagonists, who are both freelance authors and editors, have no children, little money, and not much to say to each other. Their neighbors have taken in a stray cat named Chibi. One day, Chibi climbs into the couple’s house through a window. Neither of them is a cat lover; the husband prefers dogs, and the wife loves all animals equally. But, as Chibi comes to visit them every day, they come to love her. They begin to play with her in the garden, and they make a special door for Chibi to come into their house. At the same time, they begin to do more things together, and their love for the cat helps them to rediscover their love for each other. But when the landlady’s husband dies and the elderly woman decides to sell the property, the couple will be forced to move, so they look for a place where they can continue to see Chibi.
Hiraide, a poet, writes in a lyrical style, full of philosophical insights. I especially love his descriptions of the couple’s garden and the wildlife around their house. This book is a treat for cat lovers, but even if you’re not a cat lover, you will be enchanted by the beautiful writing. The translator’s notes provide interesting information about Japanese history and culture.
The Guest Cat is available from the Hatcher Graduate Library .