Major meow-wow! Within a few pages, I knew Gwen Cooper had done the impossible — made me believe I was hearing the authentic interior monologue of Prudence, the rescued cat who is the major star of this novel. But not to worry, Prudence doesn’t have to carry the whole book. We also lap up chapters by Sarah, the woman who originally rescues Prudence, as well as her somewhat estranged daughter, a lawyer named Laura. Living on the lower East side of New York City, Prudence and Sarah have had a deeply mutual admiration for each other. Then Sarah disappears. Shortly thereafter, Laura and Josh show up at Sarah’s apartment and start packing boxes. Prudence is also packed up and moved to their apartment on the upper West side.
The worst possible thing has happened: Sarah has died, but Prudence doesn’t really understand that for quite some time. Laura is on automatic pilot at work and within her relatively new marriage. She is not dealing with the unresolved issues she had with her mother. Single Mom Sarah was a bohemian of sorts, once a DJ and eventually, the owner of a record store. Laura feels permanently scarred by an awful event in her childhood, where she and her mother were turned out of their tenement apartment with only the clothes on their backs. Ever since then, Laura has fiercely dedicated her life to achieving financial security. Anyway, though at first she does not warm up to her mother’s cat and thus, poor Prudence is an emotional wreck. Eventually these two gals forge a bond that leads towards healthy grief and acceptance. The scenes where Prudence roots around in Sarah’s boxed up possessions, searching for familiar smells are heart-wrenching. Her calculating moves to annoy or endear herself to her new owners are truly a stitch! You will so believe you have been granted access to what makes cats tick. I was reminded of a book with similar appeal, The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein, even though that lovely book was about a dog (sorry, Prudence). I also enjoyed Gwen Cooper’s nonfiction book, Homer’s Odyssey: a Fearless Feline Tale, or How I Learned About Love and Life with a Blind Wonder Cat (2009).
PS: I have the opportunity to meet the author today, since she is appearing in Houston at Friends for Life, a no-kill animal shelter!
By the way, the cat on the cover does not much look like Prudence; now why couldn’t they have done a better job of that? Also, the title, based on the name of a resale shop, is a little too cutesy for me. But those are small matters indeed, compared to the deep pleasure of spending time with Prudence and her two-legged caretakers. Read and enjoy!