Book Review: Cleo

Cleo: The Cat Who Mended a Family

Helen Brown

Citadel Press

272 pages

We’ve all done it to our parents (or at least I did, all the time)—find a cute puppy or kitten and then beg mercilessly for it to make its new home with us.  In fact, I still do it, only now my husband is on the receiving end instead of my parents.  Unfortunately, he always has a steely composure that is never cracked by a cute kitten.  So when Helen Brown finds herself in the same position as my parents, with her two young sons begging her for a kitten, she gives in.

It is the early 1980s and Brown’s got a typical life.  She’s a columnist living in New Zealand with her two sons and husband.  Nothing extraordinary.  They have now committed themselves to taking Cleo but she is still too young to come home, so while the boys anxiously await her arrival, life goes on as normal.  Tragically, that all changes one sunny day in January 1983 when Brown’s older son, Sam, is hit by a car and killed.  It’s a freak accident—Sam is in a hurry and fails to look both ways before crossing the street.  Brown’s

Sam and Rob

world, understandably, comes crashing down.  She and her family are still grief stricken weeks later when Cleo shows up at their home.  In dealing with Sam’s death, Brown has completely forgotten Cleo’s impending arrival, and her first reaction is to give Cleo back, but her younger son, Rob, seems instantly improved by Cleo’s arrival.  Seeing him smile, Brown decides to give Cleo a chance.

The rest of the book is full of all the trials and tribulations of the following years.  Cleo instantly becomes part of the family.  Her love provides a salve to the wounds of Brown’s family.  That’s not to say though that Cleo is perfect.  Oh no!  Those of you with cats know what types of shenanigans our feline friends can get into, and Cleo is no different.  Her various escapades always had me laughing aloud.

As you can imagine, the book spans Cleo’s life.  Being that she was born in ’83, it was obvious to me from the start that she could no longer be living.  I was right, but only by a small margin.  Cleo lived for 24 years!  She was a fighter, and she held on much longer than anyone would anticipate, including her vet.  Her death at the end of the book had me in tears.  That rarely ever happens.  I felt such a connection to Cleo that her death hit me like she was my own.  I could not get that little imp out of my head!

As probably already indicated, I am a cat person.  Like Brown, I never would have labeled myself as such originally, but now that I have my own team of cats ( Milo , Fiona and Charlie), I am a hopeless cat lady.  If my husband were to allow it, I would have a few more!  Cleo made me appreciate my cats even more— Milo constantly crying and mewing for attention and Fiona trying to “floss” her teeth on the edge of my book no longer irritated me—I encouraged it!  When Cleo died, I held my cats close and cuddled them.  It was as pathetic as it sounds and my husband reveled in every minute of it.

In closing, I just want to say that if you can read this book and not want a cat, your heart may be made of stone.  Or maybe I am just a complete wuss.  Either way, Cleo captivated me from the first page and had I not started it so late at night, I would have read it all the way through in one sitting.  As it stood, I couldn’t wait to wake up the next morning to finish it.

Other Reviews:

Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers

I received this book from the publisher for review.

Make sure to come back here Monday, September 6, to check out my interview with Cleo’s author (and owner!), Helen Brown.


4 Responses

  1. Cleo sounds like a wonderful cat. Animals seem to come into our lives at the right time. I want to read this book now, even though I’m sure I’ll cry too.

  2. I’ve never considered myself a cat person, though when I read Dewey, I started thinking I wanted one! This sounds like a sweet story, but I might need to wait until I live somewhere I can have a pet!

  3. I confess: I’m not an animal person at all. I’m glad you enjoyed it!

  4. […] out what other people have written about the book: The Conscious Cat Reviews by Lola Good […]

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