Review of The Guest Cat by Takashi Hiraide
The story is that of a couple in their mid- to late-30s, both freelancers working at home, in a small house on the grounds of a grander main house full of antiques and surrounded by a garden. Their neighbors, in another small house on a crooked lane (“Lightning Alley”) that prevents the two households from meeting or even seeing each other very often, have acquired a cat who begins to drift over to the first couple’s garden and house, making it her second home. The husband is not a cat-lover to begin with, and admits to “feeling absolutely disgusted” by the cloying manner of certain cat-loving friends. Over time, we observe the cat making herself at home with the couple, and their subtle interactions with this new-found guest. Chibi (Little One), is “a jewel of a cat.” (Perhaps the word is tama [jewel, bead] in the Japanese version? If so, a possible reference to Kanai’s work?) She is white with black splotches varied with light brown. She likes human company, seeing off her owners’ little boy each morning as he goes to school, and gradually making herself at home in the couple’s house as well. But she has a wild side, and will not be picked up or held. She is slender, swift and silent. Hiraide’s descriptions of her as she plays with a rubber ball, hunts birds or cicadas and sleeps on the sofa (“like a talisman curled gently in the shape of a comma and dug up from a prehistoric archaeological site”) are vivid and true-to-life.