Monday, September 6, 2010

Cleo: The Cat who mended a family by Helen Brown

Summary (modified from GoodReads):  Helen Brown wasn't a cat person, but her nine-year-old son Sam was. So when Sam heard a woman telling his mum that her cat had just had kittens, Sam pleaded to go and see them.    Helen's heart melted as Sam held one of the kittens in his hands with a look of total adoration. In a trice the deal was done - the kitten would be delivered when she was big enough to leave her mother.    

And then something awful happens to this family the week before Cleo arrives at their door.   By the time Cleo arrives, Helen has forgotten all about the fact that she had agreed to take Cleo, and now has to figure out what to do.

And here's what I thought:  This was one of those wonderful stories that would have me laughing out loud at something one moment, and getting choked up five minutes later.   I'm not going to tell you what the awful thing is --- sorry, but you'll have to discover it for yourself, just like I did.  What I will tell you is that this is a great, uplifting story.   It wasn't always easy to get through some parts, but the author has such an easygoing writing style, and the pace was so even, that I would just keep reading and reading.    Brown also writes in a very descriptive and thoughtful way, whether it's something very funny, or something that she's reflecting upon.   For example, on page 42, her description of her rubber plant: "With its big waxy leaves it had an indestructible, vaguely humorless presence.  Like an unwelcome guest at a dinner party, it eavesdropped on every conversation and contributed little in return except, perhaps, when it was in the mood, oxygen."   And then Cleo discovers the rubber plant.   Let's just say -- this was one of the parts that had me laughing to myself (and being very glad that I was alone, at home, while I was reading). 

I don't want to say too much about this book, because I don't want to reveal too much.   However, you'd be correct to assume that Cleo really helps this family through a very difficult time.   There are very heartwarming parts to this story, and I don't believe a reader needs to be a cat person to enjoy it.   I think any animal lover will warm to this book (although people who know cats might have a bit of a leg up on understanding some of Cleo's behavior), but you don't need to be an animal lover to enjoy the story of this family.   I enjoyed this book so much that I looked up the author's website, and proceeded to read a bunch of her columns (which were also good reads).    So, if you're looking for a thoughtful, heartwarming story, I'd definitely encourage you to pick up this book.

And a few final thoughts:  I will admit that I don't know if I am a cat person.   While I do find them interesting, and cute (or just plain beautiful), I did not grow up with any cats, and right now, can't have a cat (husband is quite allergic to cat saliva -- this means he can't touch one, and I can't touch one, and then touch him).  However, not having any history with cats didn't stand in the way of me really responding to this book.  I do consider myself an animal person in general (grew up with a dog, and currently share the house with 4 rabbits), so that might have made parts of the story really resonate with me a bit more than it might with a non-animal person.


This book will be available in September, 2010 in paperback.  The copy I've reviewed here is an Advanced Reading Copy, so any page numbers referred to here may change when the book is in final publication.

Disclosure:  This book was sent to me by the publisher, in exchange for a review.  I did not ask for, or receive, any monetary compensation for this review. 

3 comments:

Melissa Gill said...

That sounds really good. I am a huge cat person, and not just because I have a huge cat. I'll have to pick this one up right away.

Melissa said...

I'm a little cat freak, so this book sounds right up my alley :) Great review, and thanks for bringing it to my attention!

Rose Marie said...

Wonderful review. Disclosure: I work for the literary agency that represents the author. I would like to add here that this is a story about a woman's resilience in the face of tragedy. Always good to read that we CAN survive!

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