Thursday, November 05, 2009

Homer's Odyssey by Gwen Cooper

Homer's Odyssey by Gwen Cooper is subtitled "A Fearless Feline Tale, or How I Learned About Love and Life with a Blind Wonder Cat," but it may as well be subtitled "THE stocking stuffer for the animal lover on your Christmas list." I was delighted to receive an advance copy, and I was not disappointed. With a foreword by the veterinarian who rescued Homer, this gentle, inspiring story tells how Gwen's life became entwined with that of a very special cat. Homer was brought to Dr. Khuly to be euthanized because a severe infection would require removal of both his eyes. Instead, Dr. Khuly performed the surgery, then searched high and low for someone willing to take on a blind cat. Gwen Cooper, a twentysomething staying with a friend (having recently lost the boyfriend who had supplemented her nonprofit salary), was reluctant to take on a third cat, but something about Homer spoke to her, and she brought the little guy home. This memoir documents the twelve years following Cooper's adoption of Homer, and it tells her life story partly through the lessons she learned from her brave, extraordinary, loving cat, as she tries to become the person she wants to be in career and relationships.

I happen to be a cat person, and one of my cats was born blind, so I enjoyed this story on a unique level, but I was also predisposed to judge it with a critical eye because I'm not much of a memoir fan. Homer's story is riveting, however, and Cooper tells it well. Her own story is no less interesting; for example, she moves back in with her parents to save on rent while she starts on the bottom rung of a new career - a brave act in its own way. She considers Homer to have inspired her to be brave and open to the world around her. Her account of 9/11 and its aftermath (she lived and worked very close to the World Trade Center) is particularly impressive. I could have done with a bit less gushing about her boyfriend, but I suppose that's to be expected, and it was relatively painless to skim past. Homer is the star in this book, overcoming his disability with aplomb to become a loving companion whose leaps of faith amaze everyone around him.

If you know a cat person, or an animal lover, you can stop looking now: Homer's Odyssey is undoubtedly the perfect holiday gift.

Source disclosure: I received an advance copy courtesy of Random House.

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