Book Review: If Cats Disappeared From the World by Genki Kawamura

Genki Kawamura’s If Cats Disappeared From the World is a love letter to a mother, a father, and a cat—or cats, plural. 

Kawamura’s novel left me speechless. It was so well-written and personal, as if the narrator kept glancing in a mirror every five minutes, forcing himself to be truthful. I love series, I love gigantic books, so I was dismayed to see that this book was only 168 pages. Because what masterpiece could ever communicate to us the human condition in bite-sized words, and still be something that we recognize?

If the Cats Disappeared From the World is written through the guise of an ordinary man’s point of view: a postman who has developed stage four cancer discovers that he is going to die soon. His days are numbered, but there is a way to lengthen them again. Kawamura  examines human selfishness during a sensitive and vulnerable time in the protagonist’s life. 

Throughout the novel,  the reader is asked to look past human selfishness, forced to consider questions ranging from ‘why do we differentiate flowers by name?’ to ‘how would the world operate without the controlling hands of time?’ Questions like these force readers to contend with the idea that inventions such as phones and televisions may be ruling over us. Through the narrator’s simple monologues, If Cats Disappeared From the World explores how these inventions may have negatively impacted human connection. 

If Cats Disappeared From the World reminds me just how much storytelling can bring to the world. It was perfect and exactly how I imagined it would be, yet it also took an unexpected turn, questioning  the price of family, actions and mis-actions, regrets, selfishness, pride, disappointment disguised as anger, frustration, and fallouts between loved ones. Kawamura reaffirms the beauty and art of storytelling, how the simplest, most concise word choice can hurt us the most. 

Maybe this book is only for cat lovers, or for sensitive readers, quiet readers , or readers  who feel deeply but have difficulty expressing it. I stumbled upon something so silent and sudden in this book that I could not possibly give it meaning here.. Kawamura’s novel reflects upon life’s most bitter and important rule: we can never really live the way we want, yet even among the regrets we hold on to, there is so much goodness and emotion that pain must be worth it because it teaches. Because it heals, and forgives. And the pain of being angry for so long might be worth it for the forgiveness and understanding we eventually bring ourselves to feel for one another 

If Cats Disappeared From the World is such a quiet, unassuming book and doesn’t try to snag your attention—but I still hope that it finds you, if you are the right reader for it, one who yearns to hear their inner voice, or the inner voice of a cat, or the inner voice of the world. I hope you stumble on one, or all of those. I hope If Cats Disappeared From the World reminds you, through the sadness and resentment of family, the beauty of it too, that despite the things we don’t understand about each other in most cases there is never truly a lack of love. It is always there, beneath the stain of time and beneath the surface characteristics that prevent us from showing ourselves authentically. I feel as though the book has taken a leaf out of my soul.  I hope at least one more person may feel that way, too.

Rate: Five Stars

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