What a Cat Really Thinks: Love Saves the Day (Review)

Love Saves the Day

She had hoped never again to be forced to leave a home, and she raged inwardly against the cruelty of a world that could never allow you to consider anything in “forever” terms, no matter how much of yourself you were willing to sacrifice for the sake of permanence.

Prudence has spent almost her entire life living with Sarah, a middle-aged woman living an average life on the Lower East Side of Manhattan.  One day Sarah doesn’t return home.  A few days later Sarah’s daughter Laura and her husband Josh appear to gather belongings and vacate Sarah’s apartment for her.  Prudence, confused and distraught over Sarah’s absence, is taken from her home to settle into a new life with Laura and Josh.

As Prudence tries to figure out what has happened to Sarah, she must adjust to life in Laura and Josh’s pristine Upper West Side flat.  Shortly after the move, Josh loses his job at a music magazine.  He and Laura struggle to communicate, and Laura worries more than ever about maintaining financial security so that the worst won’t happen again – that they won’t become homeless, just as she and her mother did when she was only 14.

Laura grapples with haunting past memories and angry feelings towards her deceased mother.  Through the anger and the uncertainty of what the future holds, Prudence provides much-needed comfort and comic relief.  As the characters’ relationships change and the past is confronted, it becomes clear just how binding love can be and how it can truly save the day.

This book is mostly told from the point of view of Prudence, a polydactyl tabby cat.  I don’t think I have ever read a book quite like this; even though Prudence’s voice seemed a little snooty and/or cornball (which, what cat isn’t aloof or goofy at some point or another?) at times, it was a refreshing POV.  The reader gets to examine human interactions and idiosyncrasies from a feline perspective.  Kind of interesting.

There were also some chapters written from Sarah and Laura’s points of view, which helped to fill the novel and give critical insight into past events.  I thought that the balance between past and present was good, and I never felt that important back story info was missing.

Gwen Cooper’s writing style was easy to read, and her characters felt relatively well-developed considering how short this book is.

The Good

  • interesting concept using a cat as the main character; voice was original and very feline!
  • My eyes were opened to a part of U.S. history that I had never heard about (probably because I was a kid at the time) – the part of the story where Sarah and Laura are ripped from their home because of development and a cruel city is actually based on real events that happened in 1998.  Dozens of people were displaced from their homes in an apartment building, evacuated onto the street without being allowed to take any of their belongings.  Hours after the evacuation they stood there as the building was demolished before their eyes.  One of the cats named in this book was actually real and died in the razed building; her owner was forbidden to go back in to retrieve her.

Here are some interesting links regarding the tragic event at 172 Stanton St.: http://www.nytimes.com/1998/05/10/nyregion/the-angry-urban-refugees.html http://evgrieve.com/2009/02/remembering-172-stanton-st.html

The Bad

  • The cover on this book was a little cheesy, as was the title (although it’s what initially caught my attention when I spotted it at Target)

Overall Rating

3 out of 5 – I don’t think I’d visit this book again, but I did find it to be original and I liked the fact that there was real history thrown into the mix.  I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys stories involving cats or who is looking for a relatively short, feel-good read that has depth.  The author has included some interesting source material in her “Acknowledgements” that may be worth checking out.

Quotes

“Anise had no tolerance for anybody who wanted to do something creative but lacked the discipline to see it through.  Hard work and perfecting her craft were Anise’s religion.”  -p.136

“When people keep making up the same story for you, it becomes easier and easier to believe it’s true.  That’s why it’s so important to keep your past organized.  Your past is the real truth.  Your past is who you are now.”  -p.122

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