Thursday, September 16, 2010
Cleo: The Cat Who Mended a Family by Helen Brown
Helen describes the day that changed their lives. She says days are so similar, they just become routine. "The twenty-first of January 1983 started out that way. There were no hints this date would slam down on us and slice our lives permanently in two." There's no way to review this book and not say that Sam died tragically at the age of nine. While Helen raged and cried, Steve shut down. And, Rob, at six, had witnessed his brother's death.
This was a family in trouble. So, when the owner of Cleo showed up to turn her over, Helen wanted to refuse the kitten. But, Rob immediately claimed "Sam's kitten." And, how can a mother who lost one son refuse the other? Rob had been sleeping in his parents' room since his brother's death. Now, with a kitten to care for, he wanted to return to his room, offering to share his room with the kitten, so she wouldn't miss "her brothers and sisters." Even so, when the new kitten tore the house apart, and caused havoc, Helen was ready to return her, until one day she realized that she and Rob had laughed at Cleo, laughed for the first time since Sam's death.
As anyone who owns a cat knows, they're always entertaining, with unique personalities. And Cleo seemed to have a special gift of communicating with Rob. And, as Cleo grew, she brought new people into their lives, from special neighbors to friends for Rob, to people that would change the family entirely. Cleo would never take the place of Sam, and there is no recovering from such a loss, but Cleo showed Helen and her family how to go on with life. Rob said of Cleo, "She said she comes from a long line of cat healers."
There is no doubt this book will make you cry. The author acknowledges that her life was changed forever by her son's death. But, this cat, who appeared when the family needed her, seemed to step in so many times to move them into another stage. When Helen considered suicide, there was the kitten, blocking her way. Cleo welcomed new family members, and approved of new additions. When Rob was ill, she was the healer. There was always a special connection between Rob, the boy who witnessed his brother's death, and the cat who came to stay.