Review of If Cats Disappeared from the World

If Cats Disappeared from the World

If Cats Disappeared from the World by Genki Kawamura

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It was a combination of being a little wine-drunk (meaning I had a half a glass) on a Friday night when I received an email from Amazon recommending this book. My already tenuous defenses were down, and that is how I came to own a book with the most depressing title. The premise of this novella is that the narrator learns that he is going to die soon and the devil (wearing loud Hawaiian shirts) offers him a deal to have something disappear from the earth for each day of extended life. The narrator thinks of all of the useless junk in the world and agrees. However, the devil is in the details as he, not the narrator, gets to choose what goes. This leads the narrator and his cat Cabbage on a week-long odyssey into reflecting on what makes life worth living and examining the worth of our own lives, blah, blah, blah. I’m so over this trope. It’s like a Japanese “Tuesdays with Morrie”, and I always feel a little emotionally manipulated by such books. They are specifically crafted to evoke to get readers to reflect on mortality, come to the same conclusion, and shake up their lives. I do not need a book to remind me about death and mortality; they are my constant companions and are on my mind all of the time. It’s a bit of preaching to the choir.

However, this is probably one of the most upbeat Japanese novels I have ever read. If you’re not familiar with the Japanese aesthetic, it’s always a bit quirky and depressing with a subtle humor. This book is all three, but more so. While I might roll my eyes, the messages in this book are important: how we spend our time, who makes our life meaningful, what things bring us joy, how we let routine and habit take over, and how we let our relationships fall to the wayside. It is a cute and clever novel, and do not let me, Ms. Death and Despair, prevent you from reading it. Your life might depend on it.

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