Even though I haven't been a cat person since I saw the tomcat on my grandparents' farm that I used to cuddle and carry around like a baby "playing" with a mouse, I still loved Helen Brown's Cleo: The Cat Who Mended a Family (2010). (Put me firmly in the "Dogs Rule" camp, though.)
At the beginning of the book, we see Brown in a somewhat difficult marriage (two very different people who almost fell into getting married at a young age) and a life revolving around her two young sons--Sam, age nine, and Rob, age six.
Then Sam is hit by a car while crossing in a dangerous location, leaving behind unimaginable grief and devastation for his parents and brother.
Shortly after his death, the cat Sam was waiting to receive as his belated birthday present, already named Cleo by him, arrives. Helen doesn't want the cat, at first, but Rob does. After all, this is Sam's cat.
So begins a story covering 24 years in Helen's life, all with Cleo involved. Years that include divorce, the births of additional children, remarriage, Rob's serious health issues, and learning to live without Sam's physical presence. In short, life in all its grief and glory.
As a columnist and a survivor of every loving parent's worst nightmare, Brown's book is insightful and very effective at communicating her emotions, flaws, and overall life experience. She pulled me into her life story from the very beginning, and I appreciated her honesty.
More than just an ode to a cat and the power of domesticated animals in their humans' lives, this book is about grief and how life keeps moving, no matter how horrific a loss.
Some of my favorite quotes from Brown's book:
Perhaps there was logic in olden-day mourners wearing black for a year. It would be a signal that the wearer was at best unstable.
Frighteningly primeval, Cleo's hiss was something a python would emit before swallowing a rabbit, worthy of Cleopatra herself. It was an imperial hiss, one not to be argued with.
Cleo presided over our family through nearly twenty-four years. She helped heal wounds I thought we'd never recover from.
You can learn more at the author's site here. And, yes, Cleo is going to be made into a movie.
My overall personal rating of Cleo: The Cat Who Mended a Family is a B+.