First Published 2012 by Allen & Unwin
Before I start: yes I am aware that the author is a New Zealander, but I am overlooking it because this book was set in Australia, and we Australians love to claim the best kiwi stuff anyway!
Ever since I chanced upon A Cat Affair by Derek Tangye 21 years ago, I have been a sucker for a book starring a cat. I loved it so much I spent the next 19 years collecting the entire collection (the Minack Chronicles). I have also passed a season reading Lilian Jackson Braun’s The Cat Who series, until I got sick of the annoying main character with his mellifluous voice.
Then two years ago I pounced Helen Brown’s book, Cleo: The Cat Who Mended a Family. I came to love Cleo; her presence not only soothed Brown’s family after her son Sam was run over, but also soothed me, and partly because we have our own cat story.
About two weeks before my husband died in 2009, Mr Kat or Misty for short, came into our lives. He was well named, and as scratchy as the Mr Kat in the kids TV show Kid vs Kat, but after he turned three he calmed somewhat, and I really came to love him, especially for being there for us during this difficult few years. I was actually almost back to my old self when a snake bite took him from us in October 2012.
Before we’d even buried him, my daughters were online sussing out a replacement, and in November, a girl called Patches came into our lives. Then in December we were given a new grief, so it has been lovely having a little kitty in the house this year. She’s a funny little thing, so fascinated by water. She also has a cotton bud fetish and I get in trouble with the girls if I leave the bathroom cabinet open, because they have seen her climbing down with a cotton bud in her mouth – I thought she was only getting old ones from the bin.
She also likes to bite anything made of paper or cardboard, or plastic. When I return After Cleo: Came Jonah to the library, it will no longer be in perfect condition thanks to Patches and her pair of puncture marks.
Patches however appears to be an absolute sweetheart, after reading about Jonah. Jonah is such a big character for a cat, and I ended up missing Cleo quite a bit! But he had his purpose in making so much trouble that it took Helen Brown’s mind off her breast cancer.
The other big character in this book is Helen’s daughter Lydia, who spends most of it meditating in her room when not at a monastery in Sri Lanka. It got me thinking about what kind of daughter I have been. At 23 I also ran off overseas, to Latin America, but this was well before Mum had her bout with breast cancer. As I left Mum told me that her only comfort was that one day it would be my turn. Well instead of coming back dead I came back pregnant, and produced a son, followed down the track with two daughters and another son. Ironically it was my Bolivian husband, who came out here 10+ years ago, that wound up in the local bone-yard.
My daughters are 11 and 9 and every so often when I get to thinking about what they might put me through I decide not to go there!
I have really enjoyed Brown’s books, which are straightforward reading and chronicle the many seasons of a family. They leave you interested enough in the people to want to know what they get up to next, especially those two daughters of hers!