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: 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.

Wordful Wednesday #1: Daisy the Cat, a.k.a. Shortcake

Why did I pick a photo of one of my dear, departed cats for Wordful Wednesday? Because Daisy looks so self-satisfied (and spoiled) in this photo. This photo was actually taken with a Polaroid camera! It not only captures her cuteness but her outgoing personality.

One of the reasons I chose this photo is because I love cats, which is partially why I chose the name The Literary Lioness for this blog. Cats and books just go together! Everyone knows that, right?
Daisy came to our house in an unusual way. It was a beautiful May day in 1984. My mother was in the backyard hanging up the wash on the line. The sun was shining. The birds were singing. Suddenly my mother heard a sound, which sounded like meowing, but she told herself that it had to be a bird. After all, our seven cats were all indoors.

Then she heard the sound again.

My mother decided to investigate. She walked from the quite large back yard to the patio. Now she knew she was hearing something from the screened-in back porch. She opened the door and her jaw dropped. This beautiful little kitten came running over to her and meowing loudly, apparently crying “what took you so long!” That cat knew a sucker, er, Good Samaritan when she saw one.

My mother took one look at that face and that vivacious personality and was smitten with that kitten forever.

My mother brought out milk and watched her drink it up. Then my mother went back into the house through the back door from the patio. My mother swore up and down that she couldn’t stop the kitten from squeezing in between her legs and running inside as if she owned the place. If you say so, Mom! She walked right by our other cats, who were spitting and hissing at her, and went straight to the kitchen. My mother was so impressed.
Someone must have deliberately put Daisy on the porch and shut the door, because it was impossible for her to get in there by herself. We never found out who it was, but we were grateful. She eventually acquired the nickname Shortcake because one day she sat in a cupcake box from a bakery, and well, that evolved into Shortcake. We loved and cherished her for the next sixteen years.

She remained a tiny cat all her life, never weighing more than six pounds, but she had a big mouth and a big heart. She slept on my pillow with her paws in my hair for many years. I had to gently untangle her paws from my long hair each morning.

It is very appropriate to write about Shortcake on Wordful Wednesday, because in sixteen years, she never stopped talking. It’s so appropriate that my mother heard her before she saw her.

Wordful Wednesday is run by The Seven Clown Circus.