A few years ago a friend gave me this book as a present. As an avid cat lover, I was bound to like this book a lot, that was the general idea. The cover of the Dutch translation is adorned with a sentence from an article published in The Guardian: “anyone who has ever unashamedly loved an animal will read this book with gratitude, for its understanding of an emotion that ennobles us as human beings, whether we value it or not”.
Nana is a rough tom cat used to living in the streets. He doesn’t care much for humans, but changes his mind after meeting Satoru.
It all starts when he starts napping on the hood of a silver mini van. The owner feeds him tasty snacks. Nana in exchange allows him to pet him every now and again. When Nana gets hit by a car and is injured, it goes without saying that Satoru takes him in. They stick together from that point forward and become owner and cat. Satoru is also the one who names him Nana, meaning ‘seven’ in Japanese, due to the shape of his tail. It happens to be the case his previous cat was called Hachi (eight). Nana doesn’t like it one bit, but accepts it: they belong together now.
This is the start of a love story between human and cat.
After five years, Satory announces, without giving any explanation, that he cannot keep Nana with him anymore. They take off on a road trip together, crossing Japan while staying with old friends of Satoru. It doesn’t take long before it becomes clear something strange is going on. At the first stop, it seems Satoru is looking for a new home for his cat. Nana is not willing at all, and at every stop he creates a reason why he cannot stay there. After all, he has an owner already and he doesn’t see a clear reason to part! Where Satoru goes, he want to go as well. This love between owner and cat, is contradiction with what is generally said about the former: that they will only love those that feeds them. “Cats are not so heartless,” declares Nana. “How could I ever leave him?”
During the course of the journey, it cannot be denied what the true reason for the quest is. Satoru is ill, terminally ill. He visits all people that were ever dear to him. But only at the last address he finds a place for Nana: with Noriko, the aunt that took Satoru in after his parents passed away when he was only a young boy. He can die after finding a new home for his beloved cat. And in spite of Nana not being very willing, he accepts his fate.
He gets a good life with Noriko, but he cannot forget Satoru. In spite of that, the end to the story is not very sad. Nana like getting the responsibility in the education of a new kitten. But ahead of him awaits the reunion with Satoru. Nana’s dreams reminded me of
Rumi: “Out beyond ideas of wrong doing and right doing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there”.