Thursday, December 30, 2021

The Cat Who Saved Books, by Sōsuke Natsukawa (author), Louise Heal Kawai (translator), Kevin Shen (narrator)

HarperAudio, ISBN 9780063095755, December 2021

Rintaro Natsuki is a bookish, unsocial high school student living with his grandfather, helping to run his grandfather's secondhand bookstore. When his grandfather dies, he gets even more withdrawn. An aunt he barely knows organizes the funeral, and makes plans to close down the bookstore, and take him home to live with her.

But during the week between the funeral and the day she'll come take him home, and the removal company will take away the books, some very strange events happen. The first strange events don't quite register how strange they are. Rintaro knows he doesn't have any friends at school, so he doesn't quite know what to make of it when he gets visits at the bookstore from a boy, Ryota Akiba, who wonders why he's not attending school and also wants to buy some books, and from a girl, Sayo Yuzuki, who is his class representative. She's worried about his non-attendance, and brings him his homework. It's a bit more undeniably weird when the talking cat shows up.

The cat is a big orange tabby, who says his name is Tiger. Yes, he talks. And he needs Rintaro's help to rescue imprisoned books--lock up, unread, unloved. There's a labyrinth; it might be risky.

He doesn't tell Rintaro until they've left that they might not get back at all, if they don't succeed.

The first labyrinth takes them to the imprisoned books, and a man who reads as many books as possible, as rapidly as possible, and never rereads them. It's reading more books than anyone else that has made him successful, important, powerful, not rereading books.

This isn't loving books, and the books are locked up, never to be reread. Rintaro has to change this, but how?

After this first labyrinth, there are three more, in total, and in each case, it's Rintaro who has to find the words to make these abusers of books see their importance, what they really have to offer. Mere quantity of books read isn't love of them, or speed reading and summaries, or making a profit on publishing them. On one of these adventures, Sayo comes with them, and Rintaro starts to see there's more to her than the dedicated, responsible class representative.

It's the fourth labyrinth, of course, that's the greatest challenge, and makes Rintaro confront himself, and the real meaning of his grandfather's wisdom.

This is a gentle, magical story, with a wonderful talking cat, a love of books, and talk about books, and Rintaro finally breaking out of his shell and connecting with the friends who have been there all along, already sharing or ready to share some of his love of books.


I bought this audiobook.

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