Resume: Gwen Cooper is 24 years old, she recently broke up with the man she thought she was going to marry, she has temporary living arrangements with a friend she hasn’t known for that long, the salary she pull as a non-profit organization worker will never be enough to allow her to afford a place of her own in South Beach, Florida, and she already has two cats. The last thing she needs is the “special needs” kitten that her vet is talking up to her. She takes him in anyway, calling the eyeless black kitten Homer after the Greek blind poet because Homer (the cat) is going to be the writer of his own story. The book follows Gwen and Homer (and Scarlett and Vashti, the other two cats) for a period of eleven years, through professionals ups and downs, a move to New York in late 2000-early 2001, and meeting the love of Gwen’s love.
As I was reading the book, I frequently turned to the inside cover and read the author bio. The more I was getting attached to crazy little Homer, the more I needed the reminder that the book didn’t end with him dying, that he was still alive at the time of publication. That reassurance was especially useful in the second to last chapter, which recounts a couple of days when Homer got really sick and stopped eating. Considering what my own experience had been with a cat who got sick and stopped eating (Goddamned FIP!) I was especially nervous, and relieved to hear that he recovered and lived to the last chapter. Isn’t it nice, to read a pet biography that doesn’t end with the end of the animal’s life?
But what struck me the most about this book is that, once I finished reading it, almost all I could think about was: “the Montreal sibling should read this.” The Montreal sibling is Gwen Cooper at age 24, more or less, and I know how useful and important it has been for me to recognize myself in book characters. Not because I was looking for a life manual; because it felt so good to know that I’m not alone to struggle with what I struggle with, to know that someone else knows what it feels like to be me. I found a copy in French at the library and got it to my sibling (who doesn’t read in English), and here’s to hoping that this book gives that sibling what other books gave me. I’ve also been told that the sibling is already acquainted with Homer’s story, which I was not when I picked up the book, and is looking forward to having some time to read it.