When I learned how sick my cat really was, I decided, for some reason, that I needed more literary cats in my life. (I was going to say more fictional cats, but Dewey was not fictional.) That is when I borrowed Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World, by Vicki Myron, from the library.
(I learned my lesson from last week.)
Sometime, I really think that I make terrible decisions, the kind of decision that will inevitably make me cry, just to remind myself that I’m not a robot*. Reading this book when I did was definitively one of them, and I’m not just saying that because I was reading it in a bus full of strangers; they can suck an egg if they don’t like me crying. I’m saying that because it’s a biography of a cat. I knew from the start that it would end with the cat dying, and that unless the book was so terribly written that I couldn’t finish it, that death would hit me pretty hard.
The book was not terribly written, not at all.
One of the things I loved best about it is that it wasn’t just the story of Dewey Readmore Books, the kitten who was found in the return box of the Spencer, Iowa public library one cold winter morning. Of course, the book covers the life of Dewey, who recovers from his night in the return box to become the official library cat, status which brought him national, and even international, fame. Dewey sounds like he was the most adorable cat: playful and sociable, without being clingy. The perfect library cat, in a word, and the kind who makes me wish that my library had a cat.
It’s also not just the story of head librarian Vicki Myron, who found Dewey that morning and was his non-official keeper. She does inject a good part of herself in the book, as is her right as a narrator, and her story is inspirational on many levels. Her many trials and tribulations cannot fail to strike a chord with readers. (Is it prejudiced to say especially female readers? It might be, but I’m having a harder time imagining male readers connecting with the medical complications caused by childbirth, and the breast cancer diagnosis.)
Along with all of that, it was the story of Spencer, a small-town in Iowa, and the people who call it home. The descriptions of Spencer and it’s inhabitants are so tightly interwoven with Dewey’s story that you begin to think that the story could not have happened anywhere else, or at any other time. The setting would probably feel mythical to anyone younger then I am; it brought me a lot of memories and nostalgia for my late eighties to late nineties childhood.
I’m really happy that I’ve read this book, although a small part of me wishes that I’d waited a few more weeks, at least.
*There are moments when I doubt my own capacity to feel emotions, such as when I went to see The Fault in Our Stars and didn’t cry, so those reminders feel terrible but might actually be good for me. Like Buckley’s.