Book review: If Cats Disappeared From The World

If cats disappeared from the world, I wouldn’t have had to spend a fortune on vaccines.

So here I am, on my next book about cats. I am back with my lowkey obsession with Asian literature. They’re calm and warm and would often reassure me that it’s okay to prioritize myself and that doing so doesn’t make me selfish. If Cats Disappeared From The World is just like the other books from the same shelf. It somehow made me question how I am living my life because apparently “being alive doesn’t mean all that much on its own. How you live is more important.”

So, what’s the story?

The narrator failed to mention his name (or was I not paying close attention again?). Only that he’s a mailman and he was just diagnosed with a brain tumor so his days are numbered. Enter the Devil, who tries to send him the idea of making something disappear from the world in exchange for one more day to live.

Being a human being who cherishes life dearly, he agreed.

The 10 things I want to do before I die

This was what The Dying Man was working on when the Devil appeared and asked him to make a deal. The Devil, which The Dying Man decided to call Aloha (stop, my brain conjured up Jung Yong Hwa from his 2020 online fan meet when I read this bit, I swear!), thought it was lame. He then proceeded to revisit the bible’s Genesis (one more proof that devils also read the bible, see Luke 4:9-11) and explained his proposed deal.

I tried to write my own 10 things and for reasons unknown, I stopped at number 3 and couldn’t think of anything else to write. Perhaps, Aloha’s deal was somehow on point. It is much easier to erase something from the world in exchange for life. Maybe I could ask him to erase wifi so people could live as they did in 1995 when they actually talked to each other instead of ogling down their phones otherwise taking pictures of their aesthetically pleasing yet super bland meal. Perhaps I could have Spotify disappear so we could all go back to recording songs from the radio and think carefully about the music worthy of blank tape space. Come to think of it, there are countless things these days that we don’t really have 10 or 20 years ago yet we managed to survive.

The Devil, though, dressed, um, shall we say, unconventionally? Brightly colored Hawaiian shirts with palm trees or pictures of classic American cars, and he was always in shorts—like someone permanently on holiday.

If cats disappeared from the world

It’s much easier to give up things that do not really add value, or “spark joy” in our lives. I bet I could manage to live for months if I choose to erase the things I deem trivial. But what if Aloha asks for the important things to disappear? In The Dying Man’s case, it was his cat.

Cabbage lived with him for a long time. The cat has a huge sentimental value to him. I may easily give up cats, but for The Dying Man, the idea was too brutal and cruel. They had too many shared histories, moments he held close to his heart. But perhaps, Aloha’s deal is just another way of reflecting on how he lived his life. Was he truly happy? Was he able to make peace with his old self? Was he able to tell the people who matter the most just how much they meant to him? Because maybe, just maybe, we do not really need the list of 10 things. Maybe, what we need is to do what really matters to and with the people who mean so much to us.

And that, he did. The Dying Man must have left the world a happy man.

Should you read it?

The book is hardly 120 pages, relatively a short and easy read I finished reading one long night. This is the best book to read on a lazy weekend afternoon or a rainy night. Also best paired with a cup of hot beverage. If you love all these things then I’m sure you’ll enjoy it too.