Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Review of "Homer's Odyssey" by Gwen Cooper




At 24-years-old Gwen Cooper was already "mommy" to two cats, Vashti and Scarlett. So when a veterinarian friend asked Gwen to consider adopting a blind black two-week old kitten, Gwen was hesitant....this seemed like a lot to take on. But the sweet loving kittie immediately won Gwen's heart and "Homer" joined the family in the South Beach neighbohood of Miami.

Despite his inability to see, Homer was anything but a 'fraidy cat'. The intrepid kitten was everywhere, investigating everything. He climbed bookcases, drapes, furniture, and people; he got into kitchen cabinets and unerringly found unopened cans of tuna ('feed me this'); he constantly tried to sneak up on Scarlett - from directly in front - not understanding how she always knew he was there; he loved to play fetch with his favorite stuffed toy - a worm with a bell; he made friends with almost everyone he met; Homer even viciously attacked a burglar and chased him out of Gwen's apartment. In fact Homer immeasurably enhanced Gwen's life.

This memoir is Gwen's story as much as Homer's. Inspired by Homer's joie de vivre and indomitable spirit, Gwen - broke and needing a better paying job - moved back in with her parents (not easy). She took a series of intern and volunteer positions and finally came out on the other side with highly marketable skills - and the means to get her own place again. Over time Gwen and the cats moved four times, which is daunting for a human, never mind a blind cat. But Homer always adapted quickly, making his way from his food and litter box (the first things Gwen 'showed him') to investigate every millimeter of his new dwelling.

Homer met Gwen's friends and a few guys she dated (one who hissed at /frightened Homer was thrown out immediately) and almost everyone loved the little black cat. In one amusing anecdote, Gwen's ex-boyfriend George was babysitting Homer for a few days when Gwen popped by for a visit. To Gwen's horror George's friend - with baby Homer lying on the palm of his outstretched hand - was spinning around, making helicopter noises, and affectionately calling Homer 'El Mocho' (something like stumpy). When Gwen made a fuss, Homer was put down. But the kitten immediately ran over to his playmate and pawed him....'more more more'.

In time Gwen moved to New York for work and got an apartment near the World Trade Center. When the twin towers came down on 9/11, Homer and his sister cats were stranded in their apartment when the district was blocked off for safety. Gwen's tale of trying to get back to her cats with food and water - which took days - was as harrowing a story as I've read in some thrillers.

After some years Gwen met her future husband Laurence (not a spoiler). Laurence's big booming voice intimidated Homer, who avoided this barrel-chested intruder. Nevertheless, Homer's super-hearing alerted him when Laurence opened the refrigerator to make a turkey sandwich - and the cat immediately rushed over to get (more than his share) of the meat. Laurence had to resort to loudly running the faucet so he could sneak out the sandwich fixings, then hide in the bathroom to make his snack (ha ha ha).

The book doesn't focus solely on Homer and there are plenty of fun stories about the other cats. Scarlett for instance divided the world into mom (Gwen) - who she loved; and everyone/everything else - who she had little use for. And Vashti, a beautiful shy cat, seduced dog-lover Laurence with her adoring gazes and affectionate behavior.

I always like books with endearing pets (in real life or in fiction) and this is a very good one. Highly recommended for animal lovers.

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