Title: The Cats We Meet Along the Way
Author: Nadia Mikail
What a lovely, gentle, moving book!
The world is ending. An asteroid will wipe out everyone and everything in a few months, but people are still living their lives. What else is there to do? In Malaysia, Aisha was planning a life – studying medicine in Edinburgh, getting married and settling down with her boyfriend Walter, having children and naming them for her late father and uncle. But her world is smaller now, and she has to accept that these things will never happen.
But there are unresolved pieces to her family’s story, and Aisha wants to understand what made her mother abandon their home when Aisha’s father died, and what happened to her older sister, June. Aisha’s mother hasn’t dealt with the grief of losing her husband, choosing instead to run away and start again without him. June left home three years ago, and no one has heard from her since.
In the days they have left, Aisha, her mother, Walter and his parents, and a stray cat named Fleabag head out on a road trip to come to terms with the past, and look for June.
Aisha and Walter are a lovely couple, and it is heartbreaking to realise – along with Aisha – that there will never be an ending to their story. They won’t get to live the life they imagined, and whatever hopes they had will end with the asteroid.
But this isn’t a depressing story. Instead of focusing on the tragedy, the author connects with the tiny details of her characters’ lives, showing us the grief that shaped Aisha and her family, as well as the simple pleasures of living one day at a time. Despite the apocalyptic setting, this manages to be a story about connection, breaking down barriers, and understanding what really matters. With all the grief, unspoken anger, and coming to terms with the end of the world, this ends up being a story about hope – the kind of book that you close at the end and with a happy sigh.
The Cats We Meet Along the Way won the 2023 Waterstones Children’s Book Prize, and it deserves the recognition.
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YA review: The Cats We Meet Along the Way cross-posted to GoodReads.
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