A series of surprising events lends a solitary bachelor a second chance at love.
Samuel, a linguistics lecturer in Madrid, lives a reclusive life of teaching, lesson-planning, and housework—a routine in which the greatest thrill is an occasional trip to the supermarket. He’s eschewed a social life for so long that he ushers in the New Year watching TV alone in his apartment and criticizing the revelers outside. But all that changes on New Year’s Day when he wakes up to the scratchings of a cat on his apartment door. The cat takes up residence in Samuel’s home and forces him to interact with the messy outside world—by escaping to the apartment upstairs, where Samuel encounters a philosophizing editor named Titus, who sends him on an errand where he crosses paths with Gabriela, his lost childhood love. Along the way Samuel learns the importance of what he terms "love in lowercase"—a phenomenon in which “some small act of kindness sets off a chain of events that comes around again in the form of multiplied love”—inspiring him to enjoy life’s smaller moments and seek out Gabriela. The quest to find Gabriela is genuinely charming if a little predictable, and Samuel, full of awkwardness and good intentions, is an easy protagonist to root for. The simplicity of Miralles’ writing is also key; his short chapters are like brief, linked thoughts that highlight the magic in the ordinary (as Samuel wanders the city one night, the moon is described as “a giant, milk-colored fruit”). Although Samuel’s revelations can be bluntly rendered—“I leapt out of bed, fired by the conviction that I was the master of my own fate,” he muses one morning—it’s in line with the earnest, genuine nature of a romance that involves meddlesome cats, fate, and lots of musings on Goethe, Kafka, and Rilke.
A satisfyingly quaint romance.