Book Review: Love Saves the Day by Gwen Cooper

Title: Love Saves the Day
Author: Gwen Cooper
Genre: Fiction
Format: Kindle
Year Published: 2013
Source: I purchased this book

Gwen Cooper wrote the charming memoir about her amazing blind cat Homer. I reviewed it here.

She has since written a novel about a dysfunctional mother-daughter relationship and about the cat that brings them together, but only after the death of the mother.Love Saves the Day tells the story of a mother, Sarah, who raised her daughter in New York’s then-shabby Alphabet City in the 1980s.

Sarah runs a record shop with only the coolest records, and the daughter, Laura, grew up in an area where the odd was normal. She was surrounded by rockers, druggies, and prostitutes.

A series of traumatic events happen in Laura’s childhood that changes her perception of her mother forever. Laura is bitter over things she believed her mother did or didn’t do. When Sarah dies, she leaves behind Prudence, her loyal and smart cat. Laura, now a successful lawyer, is going through her mother’s things and must take Prudence home to share her apartment with her husband, Josh.

The novel in alternating chapters is sometimes in Prudence’s voice (yes!), sometimes in Laura’s, and sometimes in Sarah’s. In Prudence’s chapters, you get a cat’s-eye view of the situation. She doesn’t understand that Sarah is dead. She keeps waiting for her to come home. It is touching because Prudence cannot figure out where Sarah is! It takes her quite awhile to realize that Sarah is never coming back.

To Prudence, Laura is just another cat, and not a particularly affectionate one. Prudence is very upset being in Laura’s apartment because she instinctively feels that Laura does not want her there. Laura does associate Prudence with all her bad feelings about her mother.

At first it was odd to read some of the chapters in the cat’s voice, but I actually found it touching and poignant.  Laura may not come across as particularly likable at first, but her childhood was so fractured that you come to understand why she is the way she is. She has a fine career and is a fully functioning member of society.

Prudence just doesn’t understand why Sarah never comes home!  Cooper has a deep understanding of cats. Like her, I firmly believe that cats can be very wise.

Why is she now living in Laura’s apartment? Where is Sarah? Because of Prudence, Laura finally learns to come to grips with her complicated relationship with her mother. Prudence’s innocent love does, indeed, save the day.

You will both laugh and cry reading this book, and Prudence will steal your heart!

Book Review: The Cat Who Came for Christmas by Cleveland Amory

Title: The Cat Who Came For Christmas Author: Cleveland Amory
Genre: Animals, Memoir
Format: Hardcover
Year Published: 1987
Source: I purchased this book many years ago.

Cleveland Amory’s The Cat Who Came For Christmas is the delightful holiday tale of Amory and his cat, Polar Bear.

It was Christmas Eve 1977 and Amory, a well known Boston Brahmin, society writer, and former TV Guide critic, had established The Fund for Animals, and was deeply involved in animal rights issues.

On a rescue mission, he meets Polar Bear, a stray cat who is living in deplorable conditions. Polar Bear immediately touches his heart in an unusual way. Amory loved all animals, but had never been owned by a cat before – he was a “dog man.”

But that cold Christmas Eve changed all of that. He seems to know instinctively that this small, half-starved creature will be important to him. Amory and Polar Bear were perfect for each other.

The book was a huge bestseller upon its original publication in 1987 and has been republished numerous times, with the most recent edition in October 2013.

The book can also be very funny as Amory tries to see things from a cat’s point of view. It is a sweet story and makes for wonderful Christmas reading.

The book was so popular that Amory wrote two sequels:

The Cat and the Curmudgeon, 1990

and The Best Cat Ever, 1993

Curmudgeon is about the continuing relationship between Amory and Polar Bear, especially after fame has struck.

The Best Cat Ever is actually mostly about Amory’s interesting life and not so much about Polar Bear, although it does have the very sad but inevitable conclusion to their enduring friendship. Amory passed away a few years later in 1998.

Or you can get all three volumes in one book, Cleveland Amory’s  Compleat Cat.

For some reason, these books are not available for Kindle or Nook – yet.

Book Review: Homer’s Odyssey by Gwen Cooper

Title: Homer’s Odyssey
Author: Gwen Cooper
Year Published: 2009
Genre: Non Fiction, Cats
Format: Paperback
Source: I purchased this book

Homer, the Greek poet who wrote the great epic poems the Iliad and the Odyssey, was blind. The Odyssey concerns the hero’s return home after the fall of Troy.

Homer, the star of Gwen Cooper’s memoir Homer’s Odyssey: A Fearless Feline Tale, or How I Learned About Love and Life with a Blind Wonder Cat, is a blind kitten. He is brought to the vet with a very bad eye infection. The vet removes his eyes, and sets about finding Homer a forever home.

Enter Gwen Cooper, who already has taken in two stray cats. Gwen is smitten with Homer, not so much because he is blind but because he has such a courageous spirit. He comes into her life at just the right time, after a breakup with her long-time boyfriend. As Cooper says:

I adopted him because when you think you see something so fundamentally worthwhile in someone else, you don’t look for the reasons – like bad timing or a negative bank balance – that might keep it out of your life. You commit to being strong enough to build your life around it, no matter what. In doing so, you begin to become the thing you admire.

Homer is full of spunk and character. He defends Gwen against an intruder who breaks into her home. Along with her other two cats, they survive for several days after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, after Cooper is unable to return to her apartment near the World Trade center.

Homer is utterly lovable. He leaps tall bookcases, hangs from curtains, and shoves tuna cans out of the kitchen cabinet. He loves life with a joyous innocence. It is very easy to fall in love with him! Everything he does takes a leap of faith.

Gwen Cooper is a very talented writer. The book is cleverly put together, with quotes from The Odyssey heading each chapter. Cooper writes about how Homer gave her the courage to move to New York when she was almost 30 years old, and how Homer’s influence changed how she viewed her relationships with men.

Even if you aren’t as crazy about cats as I am, you will love Homer.
You can read more about Homer on his blog: Homer’s Odyssey.

Book Review: Rin Tin Tin by Susan Orlean

Title: Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend
Author: Susan Orlean
Genre: Non Fiction, Biography
Year Published: 2011
Format: Paperback
Source: I picked up this book as an ARC at Book Expo America.

Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend is Susan Orlean’s examination of the fascinating career of the famous German Shepherd of films and TV.

Orlean spent 10 years investigating the story of Rin Tin Tin, and what she found was an incredible story of one man’s love for his dog. Lee Duncan found “Rinty” during WWI on the battlefield of France. He found and rescued a German Shepherd mother and her puppies. He couldn’t feed and care for the whole family so he gave away all but the last two puppies – Nanette, and her brother, Rin Tin Tin, named after popular dolls in France.

Duncan managed to get them back to the U.S, and eventually started to try to find a way for his beloved Rinty at the movie studios. It was easier to crash into movies during the silent era when the movie business was still in its infancy. Rinty became a huge star, and the consequences for both man and dog were unexpected. Rin Tin Tin was world-famous, because silent films were truly international, with no language barrier.

After the first Rin Tin Tin died in the early 1930’s there were several other German Shepherds who “acted” under the Rin Tin Tin name. In the 1950’s, there was a very popular television series, The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin.

Susan Orlean, best known for “The Orchid Thief”, spent many years researching and writing this book. She clearly became deeply personally involved:

Susan Orlean is a fine writer, but there is a major problem in the book. The book concentrates on the life of Lee Duncan, and Duncan simply is not interesting enough to sustain an entire book. I enjoyed the part of the book concerning his discovery of Rinty in France, and also when he was trying g to break his dog into movies. He was a nice man although somewhat eccentric, and he cared far more for his dogs than his wife and child.

One of the other major characters in the book is the producer of the television show, Herbert Leonard, who sounds like an interesting character. I found him more interesting than Duncan. There are other interesting people in this book, too, as fight for control of Rin Tin Tin continues to this day, since Lee Duncan never gave instructions in his will on who should be controlling the dynasty.

I was also disappointed that there are very few photos, and the ones that are included are not very interesting. I definitely think there should have been a section devoted to photographs.

I did find the book interesting, and it did make me look up videos of Rin Tin Tin. I’d heard about him, but had never seen him in anything, since the television show was on before I was born and silent movies are not shown very often and apparently not many of Rinty’s movies still exist.

I do recommend this book if you are interested in dogs, movies, or television.

Book Review: Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World, by Vicki Myron with Bret Witter

Title: Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World
Author: Vicki Myron
Genre: Non Fiction, cats
Format: Hardcover
Year Published: 2008
Source: I purchased this book.

This now-famous book is about Dewey Readmore Books, the orange cat who was the ambassador for the Spencer, Iowa public library.

One bitterly cold morning in January 1988, library staff found Dewey inside the metal book drop box outside the library.
Vicki Myron, the author and the library director says:

I was still catching my breath when I saw the kitten. It was huddled in the front left corner of the box, its head down, its legs tucked underneath it, trying to appear as small as possible. The books were piled haphazardly to the top of the box, partially hiding it from view. I lifted one gingerly for a better look. The kitten looked up at me, slowly and sadly. Then it lowered its head and sank down into its hole. It wasn’t trying to appear tough. It wasn’t trying to hide, I don’t even think it was scared. It was just hoping to be saved. I know melting can be a cliche, but I think that’s what actually happened to me at that moment: I lost every bone in my body. I am not a mushy person. I’m a single mother and a farm girl who has steered her life through hard times, but this was so, so . . . unexpected.

Despite being half-frozen, Dewey still seemed to love people, even if someone was responsible for throwing him into a freezing box filled with books. He was so friendly that he became the unofficial greeter at the town library. He loved to sit on the laps of patrons. Dewey became the toast of Spencer, Iowa, a town struggling to escape the farm problems that devastated rural towns in the 1980’s.

Soon Dewey started getting attention around all of Iowa. Here he is starring on Iowa Public Television:

Dewey is a charming book about a cat who became a beloved symbol of happiness and hope to a struggling town. He became famous throughout the United States and in many part of the world.

When Dewey died, obituaries were published around the world. After the book was published, CBS Sunday Morning did a piece on him (be patient, the video keeps buffering).

The book has become so popular that there have been versions written for children. I highly recommend this book. Adults and children can enjoy Dewey’s story together.

You can read more about Dewey at the Spencer Library website, and there is a wonderful website devoted to Dewey. Dewey even has a page on Wikipedia.