Spoiler warning! I’m going to ruin the ending of this book for you. Proceed with caution.
The Travelling Cat Chronicles is not a speculative fiction novel. (By the way, that is the correct spelling of the title. It’s the UK version of travelling. My spellcheck is not happy with me right now.)
It is from the point of view of a cat. But it’s not a magical cat. It’s just a regular cat, traveling around Japan with his regular person.
As someone who usually reads only speculative fiction, with the occasional dive into historical fiction, this was a step out of the norm.
And I’m honestly glad I did. It was a great story. By the end of the book, I was crying on a public bus. Just, you know, as a warning.
As writers, we should never restrict ourselves to reading our genre. We should read as widely as we can. If a book catches your attention, read it. There’s always something we can learn from a story, no matter the genre.
One of the things that kept me turning the pages was the vivid descriptions of Japan. This is a country I’ve long been fascinated with. I loved hearing about Nana, the cat, and Satoru, his person, exploring the country. I was fascinated by the stories of Satoru’s childhood, his school tales, and descriptions of trips with friends. They had such rich detail. I loved every single second of it.
If your work takes place in a fantasy world, then it’s easy to talk up the details. But if you’ve got a story set somewhere real, it can seem less important. But it’s still just as crucial. Your hometown is probably boring to you because you see it all the time. But for someone who’s never visited, it’s fascinating.
It didn’t take me long to realize that this story wasn’t going to have a happy ending. I’m willing to bet you can guess what happens. I guessed around page four.
But that didn’t stop me from bursting out into tears when it was happening. Because by that time, I was connected to the characters. There’s only so much you can brace yourself.
Your ending doesn’t have to be a shock for a reader to enjoy it. Yes, there should be questions. Yes, it’s better if someone can’t guess the ending by reading the blurb, which I’ve done on multiple occasions. But the main ending doesn’t have to be a huge surprise.
I knew pretty soon that Satoru was going to die. (I did warn you that I was going to spoil the ending.) But I didn’t know what would become of Nana. And I desperately needed to know.
That I won’t ruin for you, by the way. Trust me, the book is worth reading to find out.
I will tell you that the book has a happy ending. It wasn’t all syrup and perfection. It was great, though. Satoru doesn’t live, but he does touch the lives of the people he cares about for the better. He leaves the world a brighter place. And that’s a realistic happy ending. And a fully satisfying one at that.
Some other good examples of this can be found in Pixar movies. This has been pointed out before, and by lots of fans. The toys in Toy Story go to a new home, so they’re not with Andy anymore but they’re still happy. Sully from Monster’s Inc doesn’t get to keep Bo, but he can visit her. There are lots of ways to have a happy ending. I love that we have so many that go beyond our expectations.
To wrap it up, here’s what you can learn from the Travelling Cat Chronicles.
- Read outside of your genre. Read anything that sparks the slightest bit of interest.
- The description of your story’s location can and should be a selling point.
- Your ending doesn’t have to be a shock to be satisfying.
- You don’t have to have a traditional happy ending for it to be a happy ending.
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