For all those people who say they aren't cat people, but deep down know they are. Helen Brown wasn't a cat person, but her nine-year old son Sam was. So when Sam heard someone mention that her cat had just had a litter, he pleaded to go and see them. Seeing Sam holding one of the tiny kittens in his hands, Helen was powerless to resist and the deal was done -- to be delivered when the kitten was big enough to leave her mother.
Just a week later, Sam was killed in a road accident. Not long after this, a little black kitten was delivered to the family's doorstep. Totally numbed by Sam's death, Helen had completely forgotten about the new arrival, which belonged in another universe when Sam was still alive. Helen was ready to send her back, but Sam's younger brother, Rob, identified with the kitten who'd also lost her brothers. Stroking her, it was the first time Helen had seen him smile since Sam's death. There was no choice, the kitten -- dubbed Cleo -- had to stay.
Cleo's immense character slowly taught the family to laugh again, giving them hope of getting back to normal. She went on to become the high priestess of Helen's household - vetoing her new men, terrifying visiting dogs and playing an integral role in their lives to become both a guardian and friend.
I haven't enjoyed a memoir this much in a long time! Not since April Maley's I Will Not Be Silent has a memoir affected me so strongly. I laughed, I cried---sometimes simultaneously. I ended the book in an introspective mood...thinking about how life is about the now: enjoying each moment, because nothing is guaranteed.
My favorite quote from the book:
"We were on borrowed time, but one thing Sam's death taught me is time is only ever on loan. Life can change irrevocably for any one of us at any moment."
This book does focus on Cleo the cat, but it's not just about a cat. I read Marley and Me and felt like it was mostly about a dog. Cleo is about a family, but mostly it is Helen's story. In the blink of an eye, her world is turned upside down by the death of her nine-year old son, Sam. She forgets that several weeks prior to the accident, she promised Sam a kitten. Two weeks after Sam's death, Cleo is dropped off at Helen's door. Never mind that she feels too overwhelmed to take care of a kitten, that she has a dog and doesn't know how the two will get along, and that she is not a "cat person." Her other son, Rob, falls in love with the kitten and begs to keep her.
What follows is hilarious---Cleo has what we call at my house "Crazy Kitten Syndrome." She is destructive, but is so adorable that the Browns can't really discipline her. The family grows to love her more than they ever expected. The story follows Helen through 24 years of her life. I just love following people's lives for that long! The Browns live in New Zealand, but move several times. It was neat to read about those places. As a Texan, I've never been to England, Australia, or New Zealand, so I enjoyed the perspective on those parts of the world.
I loved Helen's voice. She is very frank---she doesn't wallow in her emotions. I really enjoyed the way she described her feelings and how honest she was about her fears and doubts. Her road to forgiveness of the person responsible for Sam's death was heartbreaking, but uplifting.
I would recommend Cleo for anyone. Please don't shy away from this book if you aren't a cat person. I'm not a huge fan of memoirs, and I loved Cleo. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll love it!
Just One Gripe:
While I should have known what was coming, the end made me cry and cry---it came up so fast!
The Best Thing About This Book:
The way the book made me feel. If a book changes my outlook or changes my thinking, it's a really powerful book!
Appropriate for a younger audience:
*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an impartial review.