If Cats Disappeared from the World by Genki Kawamura

This had been sitting on my shelf for a while, and I started reading it when I wanted a comfort read while my own cat Mara was unwell (though thankfully she has recovered).

When the 30 year old narrator finds out he has a terminal illness and only days to live, he receives a visit from the devil who offers to trade one extra day of life for everything the narrator is willing to live without. It seems like an easy trade but the story considers what life would be like without mobile phones, films and cats to name just a few things the devil makes disappear in order to extend the narrator’s life – though apparently even the devil draws the line at a world without chocolate. Every time the devil removes something from the world, the narrator is left considering the impact it had on his life and how much we take for granted everyday.

If Cats Disappeared From the World is a short, strange but poignant and thought-provoking story about love, grief, family, regrets, dying and cats. Unfortunately I found it hard to connect with the narrator, and I preferred The Travelling Cat Chronicles (reviewed here), which covers similar themes, though this is still worth reading. Take Care, and have a lovely week. X

Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi

Before the Coffee Gets Cold

Set in an old-fashioned cafe off the beaten path in Tokyo, Before the Coffee Gets Cold is a quirky, Japanese novel about time travel. In the Funiculi Funicula Cafe, there is a particular chair that allows the person sitting in it the once in a lifetime chance to travel back or forward in time to speak to someone they know who has visited the cafe. There are several rules regarding time-travel, the most important of which is that the traveller must return to the present before their cup of coffee gets cold.

Before the Coffee Gets Cold is split into four parts, each following a different relationship from a broken-hearted woman whose lover moved to the U.S.A., a nurse whose husband has forgotten her due to Alzheimer’s Disease, a grieving sister who ran away from her family to escape her obligations and responsibilities, and a mother and daughter who never had the chance to know each other. There’s also a ghostly woman who haunts the cafe and failed to return to the present in time, but regrettably her story isn’t elaborated on. Visiting the past and future helps the time travelers to make sense of events and find a way forward in the present.

Before the Coffee Gets Cold is a short but thought-provoking and poignant story of regret and hope. Have a lovely week. X

Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata

Convenience Store Woman

Convenience Store Woman is narrated by Keiko Furukara and right from the start it’s clear that she’s a little bit odd and doesn’t fit in, but Keiko is frequently as baffled by other people as they are by her. At times Keiko is hard to relate to as she questions her humanity and there are moments when her lack of empathy and violent impulses add a sinister edge to the story.

As a university student Keiko takes a part-time job in a convenience store, where she finds a reassuring sense of routine, predictability and purpose, and she finally starts to feel like an ordinary, productive member of society. Eighteen years later, at the age of 36, Keiko is single, childless and still working part-time at the convenience store, and feeling pressure to conform as she realises that concerned family members and peers view her with a combination of curiosity and pity because they can’t imagine how she could be content when she’s deviated from the path of career, marriage and children that everyone else followed.

Convenience Store Woman2

Then, into Keiko’s orderly and predictable workplace, comes a new employee, Shiraha, a mid-30s slacker with a victim mentality who looks down on both the work and the other workers, but who is on the hunt for a marriage partner to support him. Shiraha is an interesting foil for Keiko, and he becomes the catalyst that pushes Keiko to choose between pretending to be normal and conforming to social expectations, or accepting herself for who she is and doing what makes her happy.

Convenience Store Woman is a short book and easy to read, but also a thought-provoking and powerful exploration of self-acceptance, conformity and societal pressure. Have a lovely week! X