Takashi Hiraide’s short novel The Guest Cat (136 pages) is difficult to categorize. Hiraide is a well-known Japanese poet, and this little book reads like an Imagist poem. Each of the twenty-nine short chapters is itself an image, or a tableau, that adds a piece to the larger puzzle. The chapters at times seem almost independent of the story. At times, they meander into brief musings on philosophy, art, music, and science. And though none of these musings points the reader directly toward interpretation of the story, they are all weighted with meaning. Hiraide seems to follow Emily Dickinson’s dictum to “tell all the truth, but tell it slant.”

A young couple, both writers, no children, no pets. A neighborhood cat begins to visit, begins to stay, but never really stays. A surprising turn of events changes the lives of the young couple. The plot of the novel could be summarized in just a few sentences, but the layering of images, events, and emotions–as in any good imagist work–creates a rich fabric of possibilities. The Guest Cat is a novel, a poem, about love, about vulnerability. It is about the cost of opening your life to the other.