Book Reviews, Teen

Review: The Cats We Meet Along the Way by Nadia Mikail

Blurb: Seventeen-year-old Aisha hasn’t seen her sister June for two years. And now that a calamity is about to end the world in nine months’ time, she and her mother decide that it’s time to track her down and mend the hurts of the past. Along with Aisha’s boyfriend, Walter and his parents (and Fleabag the stray cat), the group take a roadtrip through Malaysia in a wildly decorated campervan – to put the past to rest, to come to terms with the present, and to hope for the future.

A meteor is heading for earth, and though experts have tried everything to divert it and prevent disaster, there is nothing to be done and the world has a year left until the end. Government and modern societal structures have collapsed, but after the madness of the initial announcement, most people have built up little communities to ensure love and safety abound in their final days. Aisha lives with her mother in Penang, Malaysia and she is trying to enjoy the time with her boyfriend Walter, but there is so much she had hoped to do, her life barely started. When her mother suggests they find June, Aisha’s estranged sister, it sends Aisha, her mother, Walter, and Walter’s parents on a journey through the country and through their memories to find reconciliation.

This stunning novel is told in a gentle, meandering way and lingers on the small details of family and love. Some chapters are in the present, some wander back into the past and on the things that happened to form and fracture Aisha’s family, some are even dreams. It’s the perfect narrative style for this tale of loss, hope, and human resilience. Though all that happens really is that five people and a stray cat go on a small road trip, it is utterly compelling. The stops they make bring back the memories of their lives, and the grief of a future that will never materialise, and highlight the importance of storytelling across generations. In the end, they are all we have.

Through loss, grief, anger, resentment, and fear of the future, Mikail takes her readers into love, hope, forgiveness, and the endurance of our shared history. It’s quite cleansing.

This is a book aimed at teen readers, with the main character being seventeen years old, but I honestly think this is timeless and ageless; more advanced younger readers would get lost in this world, those looking to step into the teen category would find this the perfect bridging book, older teens will be able to appreciate it more fully, and even adults could benefit by reading this touching story. It is very emotional, and the subject matter is not cheery, but the book itself is like a ray on sunlight and is a celebration of what makes us human. I urge everyone to read it!

Book Info

Published: 3rd February 2022 by Guppy Books
Genre: teen fiction
Pages: 247
Narration style: third person past tense
Format read: paperback
Content Warnings: grief, loss of loved ones, end of the world, child estrangement, illness

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