February 2023 Reading Round up

The Cat Who Saved Books by Sosuke Natsukawa

GENRE: fantasy | harpervia 2021 | REVIEWED BY Esther ro

Everyone needs a cat friend like Tiger the Tabby in their lives. 

As Rintaro Natsuki, the main character of this heartwarming modern fable, navigates both the practicalities and emotional realities surrounding his grandfather’s death, he spends most of his time in his grandfather’s bookstore. The book opens with Rintaro whiling away his time at Natsuki Books and considering the uncertain future that awaits for both himself and the store. Although there are some bracing visits from his classmate Ryota Akiba and the class representative Sayo Yuzuki, Rintaro resigns himself to a certain ennui about his future – that is until Tiger the Tabby appears. Unlike Rintaro, Tiger the Tabby knows exactly what Rintaro should do: save books. 

Guided into a dream-like world, Rintaro sets out to stop crimes against books at the behest of Tiger the Tabby. Each excursion brings Rintaro face to face with those who have perverted the simple act of reading and enjoying books for profit, reputation, or out of misguided intentions. Each adventure brings Rintaro closer to acknowledging and appreciating the deep bond he shared with books, and therefore with his deceased grandfather. 

A heartwarming story, Sosuke Natsukawa’s quirky tale features a clear and distinctive message: the love of books can always be restored to those who have lost their way.  

Why We Love It: This is a novel for book lovers, cat lovers, and anyone who needs a light and inspirational tale to brighten their day.

crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner

GENRE: Memoir | KNOPF 2021 | REVIEWED BY Esther ro

Crying in H Mart marks the rites of passage in a mother-daughter relationship. This sometimes fraught, mostly endearing bond is characterized early on in a cutting description: “Her rules and expectations were exhausting, and yet if I retreated from her I was isolated and wholly responsible for entertaining myself. And so I spent my childhood divided between two impulses, engaging in the intrinsic tomboyish whims that led to her reprimands and clinging to my mother, desperate to please her.” 

What makes this innate desire to please difficult is that Michelle’s mother Chongmi, has many rules: rules about appearances, rules about conduct, and of course, rules about food. But perhaps the most difficult rule comes early in the book when Chongmi says to her often-wayward daughter: “Save ten percent of yourself.” It is a quietly devastating realization later on when Michelle understands that her mother may never have revealed her whole self, even to her daughter. After the revelation of her mother’s terminal illness, Michelle tries to recover that ten percent and reconnect with Chongmi, with varying degrees of success. 

Crying in H Mart asks: what are the ways we connect with others, and what are the ways we fail to connect? One thing that Zauner never fails to elucidate is that as fraught as the relationship between the two women can be, there is never a doubt that a strong bond exists between mother and daughter. As she says:, “Hers was tougher than tough love. It was brutal, industrial-strength. A sinewy love that never gave way to an inch of weakness. It was a love that saw what was best for you ten steps ahead, and didn’t care if it hurt like hell in the meantime.” And in writing so clearly and precisely about this love, Michelle accomplishes no small feat in showing how different, how particular, and how singular a mother’s love can look and feel. 

Why We Love It: This memoir about connection and motherhood is ultimately relatable to anyone who has struggled with how unknowable we are even to those we love the most.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s