Monday, October 11, 2010


"We're not getting a kitten," I said, negotiating our station wagon around a bend the shape of a pretzel. "We're just going to look."

So begins Cleo: the Cat who Mended a Family by Helen Brown. Poor Helen. She's like my husband, who didn't know you don't just "look" at kittens. The writing is exquisite in this book. But I'll admit I stopped reading it for a couple of days when tragedy hits the family. I simply could not go on. My own daughter is nine. And to even imagine losing her to some freak auto-accident is a place I cannot go to and remain sane.

Now that I'm in the thick of it, I'm savoring it. There is love after loss. Even laughter. My family thinks I'm bonkers sitting in a corner cackling to myself as I read this book. I can't help but think of the half finished stories of my own first cat. I got him at a tumultuous time in my life ... he's still with us (17 years old), still demanding our attention, still behaving like an Indian husband. Ah, yes, he deserves his own book. Someday.

I was a bit put-off by the cover saying: the next Marley and Me. Don't get me wrong. I've read it. Enjoyed it. But Cleo is nothing like Marley. For heaven's sake, don't the people who market know anything about cats and dogs? Marley is a dog. And some of us are right offended by the comparison. Puh-leeeese.

So, cat lovers ... get this book. Cleo will burrow into your own heart as have other cats. Perhaps it will jog some of your own cherished kitten and cat memories. Pen them. Write a tribute.

I love the title chapter and subheadings. Here's a sampling:

Choice ~ A cat chooses its owner, not the other way around.

A Name ~ There's only one correct name for a cat -- Your Majesty.

Loss ~ Unlike humans, cats are accustomed to loss.

The Intruder ~ A cat doesn't go where it's invited. It appears where its needed.

Trust ~ A cat is always in the right place at exactly the right time.

I could go on and on, but you simply must get the book, curl up with your own feline and enjoy this book for yourself.

Ciao meow.


ps: I wish the owners of Marley and other dogs and their owners only well. After all, we also have a lovable doggy in the house. But cats are cats and dogs are dogs, and the two shall not compare. Cats rule!


Anonymous said...

I'm off the to the library's online cat-alogue to see if this is available (thanks for the warning about the parent-disturbing content).

{parenthetial aside: the captcha for this comment is "editi" -- how cool is that for a writer?

Marcia said...

Sweet cover picture, but I'll have to debate whether I want to read it.

My word veri: coaddede

Shouldn't that be a math word?

Vijaya said...

You gals are too funny with the word verification ... at least they're not terrible. Bish once got something unprintable.

Anne, I'm loving every moment and laughing my socks off. Cry too. Not many books do that.

Now Marcia, you know how we talk about using strong verbs and specific nouns in our writing? I'll recommend it just for that ... for the language. You will love it even if you are dog person. The author barely had room in her heart for this critter ... and she was a dog lover as well.

Bish Denham said...

I've had some WONDERFUL cats in my life. (Still, I do prefer dogs.) But am I up for pain and heartbreak...hmmm? I'll have to think about it.

Vijaya said...

Ah, Bish, there is love after loss. I highly recommend this book. And I've edited my original post to reflect that.

Suman Khisty said...

Your comments makes me want to read this book and you know I'm not a pet person - dog or cat. But Anjali's little kitten is growing on me. She is not pushy like other kittens so I like her. I even let her come snuggle up in bed next to my back early in the morning. You can say, there is hope for me!!!

Vijaya said...

You'll love it, Suman. You might even want to get a cat ... hee hee.

Write2ignite said...

we have a cat that thinks he's a dog and a dog that thinks he's a cat.

It's very funny.
And makes for a fabulous (not) time when they come into contact with one another!

I don't know that I can read about a child dying right now. My middle girl is 8. I can't imagine my life without my three girls. I just can't do it. To read that would make me paranoid!

Vijaya said...

Donna, too funny. Both of our male cats act like dogs in the follow and fetch dept ...

I totally understand not wanting to read about a child dying. When I was joining the Church, the biggest stumbling block for me was actually my children ... during Lent I had to pray and pray whether I could be faithful to God if he called my child to him. Could I forgive him? Imagine the audacity of thinking such thoughts. I hope I'm never ever put to such a test Donna, but I did come to some peace and acceptance during that time. And when they were baptized it was like returning them back to Him. I realize all things, including my children come from Him. I am simply their earthly guardian ... for a while.

I realize this book is not for everybody, but what a gift for those who have lost a child, or lost a loved one and found healing. I'm glad Helen found the courage to write this book. I am sure it wasn't easy to write, but what a gift to us all.

Mary Witzl said...

This post really struck so many chords with me! When our girls were babies, we could not read ANY book where something bad happened to a child. Good friends gave my husband a copy of Ian McEwan's wonderful 'A Child in Time' (wherein a child goes missing and is lost forever) and he had to put the book away -- it haunted him for years.

I'd absolutely read this book, but I'd be offended at that dog comparison too. Part of me loves dogs -- really -- but that part has to fight the cat in me who looks at dogs and wonders why anybody would want a dog in their lives when cats are available. It always amazes me that dog owners don't see the obvious superiority of cats. ('Cat owners' don't exist. I always call myself a cat custodian or a cat enabler.)

Vijaya said...

Mary, yes! There are dog owners and cat companions. No such thing as a cat-owner. They own me!

My children are still so young and vulnerable ... they will be even more so when they are teens, with all their bravado.

Ian McEwan is brilliant and what makes everything he writes so good is because he does tap into our deepest fears.

Evelyn said...

Sounds wonderful, Vijaya. Thanks for sharing. I'll have to see if our library has this one.

Vijaya said...

Oh, I hope you will enjoy it as much as I did, Ev. My husband is sinking his teeth into it right now.