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The Cat Who Saved Books: 09/27/22
The Cat Who Saved Books by Sōsuke Natsukawa and Louise Heal Kawai (translator) (2017) is metafiction about books and their magical place in the world. Rintaro Natsuki is facing moving in with an aunt he barely knows and the shuttering of a used bookshop he and his grandfather ran now that the grandfather is dead. That is until an orange tiger cat calls on Mr. Proprietor to help him traverse four labyrinths to save some books.
I couldn't help but compare this novel's cat to the one who travels with Coraline in Neil Gaiman's 2002 novel. Both cats clearly know more about these alternate worlds than they are willing to share and both are ultimately dependent on their young human companions to set things right.
For Rintaro's quests, he is sent to four book themed labyrinths, with each one having a minotaur like character who represents one aspect of books. The first is an avid reader who reads once and then holds onto his books as if they are precious works of art (regardless of their actual value). The second is someone who wants to abridge books to make reading easier and less time consuming for busy people. The third is the CEO of a giant publishing house. The final one is an avatar for the books themselves.
Each journey while a metaphysical and metaphorical exploration on the nature of books, reading and writing, they are ultimately rather simplistic parables. There are those who like to read a lot and aren't as inclined to re-read as others (I am one of these readers, though I give away most of the books I read in a year). There are plenty of people who will listen to audiobooks at 2x speed to get through things more quickly, or who prefer the Readers' Digest abridged versions. Publishing does produce things at excess amounts and yet not make things easily available to readers (see Barnes and Nobles current trend on not stocking new books lacking in preorder numbers). Despite the simplicity of these scenarios, I found the novel compelling and one I will want to re-read.
Rintaro's journeys also put this novel on the Road Narrative Spectrum. Rintaro is a literal orphan (FF) traveler. His journey though to various other world locations is ultimately home (66) in that these quests help him realize that the bookstore is his home and somewhere he wants to stay. Finally his route is as the cat describes, through the labyrinth, both in that each trip has a singular path in and out and collectively these journeys serve to transform Rintaro's character, giving him the confidence he needs to stay and run the store.