She and Her Cat, by Makoto Shinkai and Naruki Nagakawa

If you have a cat, you must read this book.  If you don’t have a cat and don’t WANT to suddenly have a cat, definitely DON’T read this book.  If you hate cats, you won’t read this book anyway, so I suppose you’re safe there.

She and Her Cat hooked me from page one with a narrator who spoke to me while lying on the street, in the rain, contemplating his own death.  I’ve been in a pretty dark place myself these past few weeks for a variety of reasons (isn’t it nice how life gives us variety?), so I was about to switch back over to the Jenny Lawson books I’ve been guzzling these days (she’s AMAZING), but then a woman walked by the narrator and the world of the story was suddenly a place I wanted to stay for a while.  And that was strange since it’s a book of short stories, which I normally don’t read.  It’s also a translated book, which usually bugs me because I can feel the awkwardness of that language gap.  AND it’s from an author who is famous for manga/anime, which is not a genre where you’ll ever find me.

I was surprised.  And I LOVE being surprised by a book.

The style is light.  The stories are short.  The themes are simple.  I finished it in just a few sittings, thinking it read like a delicate piece of lemon meringue pie enjoyed alone at the table late at night.  And then my uncle died last week (sorry to be writing about that again.  I just can’t stop connecting everything I’m reading to whatever current disaster is happening in my life.  My own cheap therapy, I suppose).  As I make arrangements to fly to Phoenix to be with my mom, my reoccurring thought is, “What are you doing?  You can’t change anything.  You can’t make anything better.  AND you barely knew the man.”  And of course, that thought spiraled into, “you can’t do anything about anything in this world, why do you even try?”  And then THAT thought bounced against a line from Shinkai’s story, “I couldn’t do anything about her problems.  I just lived my days at her side.”  And I burst into tears.

I may not be able to do anything about my mother’s broken heart (he was her brother and her best friend, when her friends in general have been dying off), but I can go be at her side.  And that’s when I understood that cats (and yes, pets in general, even the weird ones) have always been better at comfort than humans.  Humans want to fix.  We want to change.  We want what we often cannot have.  But pets don’t care about any of that, they just want to be with us.

And so that’s what I’m doing this week.  I’ll try and be a good cat and simply go be with my mom, knowing I can’t do anything about her problems.  And maybe I’ll share this book with her.

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