She and Her Cat offers a quartet of imaginative, deeply affecting stories of magical realism written by Naruki Nagakawa and based on an original story by Japanese director, producer and manga artist Makoto Shinkai. The book is alternately narrated by multiple generations of isolated Japanese women who face loss and the feral neighborhood cats who come to love them--and vice versa.
In "Sea of Words," a male street cat is rescued by a single gal who works for an art and design college. The woman lives a quiet life and has romantic woes that lead to a falling out with her best friend. She names the cat Chobi, and the two offer each other comfort and solace. As Chobi patrols the neighborhood nightly, he meets a cast of eccentrics including Jon, a dog who is a sagacious philosopher; Mimi, a kitten; and Reina, a woman who lives nearby and feeds feral cats.
Mimi, the kitten now grown, anchors "First Blossoming," where she and Chobi meet up daily to enjoy food provided by Reina. A "gifted" young artist-painter, Reina couldn't get into university, but is offered an exciting internship at a film and manga design company by the narrator of the first story. Reina excels until exploitive corporate culture upsets her life. In the meantime, Mimi "[ties] the knot" with another feral cat and gives birth to kittens.
In "Slumber and Sky," Cookie, one of Mimi's offspring, is adopted by a mother who gives the cat to her young adult daughter, Aoi, whose severe depression keeps her housebound. A huge artistic rift between Aoi and her "soul sister" precipitated Aoi's paralysis of sadness, guilt and regret. When Cookie, normally a housecat, goes in search of her mother--Mimi, who is sick--Aoi is forced to confront her own limitations.
In the fourth story, "The Temperature of the World," a long-suffering and self-sacrificing divorcée takes in her rebellious, disillusioned nephew. His presence forces her to stand up to her domineering brother--with the help of a smart, feral, neighborhood boss cat who knows all.
Read on their own or taken as a whole, these heartfelt, insightful stories offer a thematic continuum about the quiet burdens people bear in the modern, often isolated world and how human-animal interactions enrich and embolden lives. --Kathleen Gerard, blogger at Reading Between the Lines
Shelf Talker: In these insightful, interconnected stories, challenged Japanese women are empowered by feral cats who live in their neighborhood.