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Old Mother, Little Cat
     

Old Mother, Little Cat

5.0 1
by Merrill Joan Gerber
 

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As Merrill Gerber steps outside her kitchen door on a dreary winter morning, her mind on the burdensome prospect of her regular visit to her mother in the nursing home, she hears the small, forlorn cry of a lost baby kitten.

With this scene begins a remarkable, deeply personal narrative by acclaimed fiction writer Merrill Joan Gerber. In a journal covering just

Overview

As Merrill Gerber steps outside her kitchen door on a dreary winter morning, her mind on the burdensome prospect of her regular visit to her mother in the nursing home, she hears the small, forlorn cry of a lost baby kitten.

With this scene begins a remarkable, deeply personal narrative by acclaimed fiction writer Merrill Joan Gerber. In a journal covering just less than a year, Gerber weaves together two journeys - one into the joy and renewal of emerging life, the other into the anguished helplessness of again.

Gerber brings unmatched skill, an unerring eye, and unflinching honesty to her first non-fiction book. No one who has ever loved a pet can fail to be moved by Gerber's descriptions of Maxie the kitten - his first days of fear and mistrust, his growing devotion to his owner, his delightful explorations, the profound sense of peace that a purring cat can inspire.

Anyone who has witnessed the gradual decline of a beloved parent will be deeply moved to find the experience reflected in Gerber's words. To her mother's grim refrain - "I wish i were dead" - Gerber registers the full spectrum of human response: sorrow and sympathy, impatience and rage, and - along with enormous love - lacerating guilt.

With the complex realities of an aging population bearing upon us as never before, Old Mother, Little Cat is clearly an e-book for our times.

She has sold a record number of stories (42) to Redbook. Her essays have appeared in Commentary, The Sewanee Review, and The Writer.

Editorial Reviews

Cynthia Arbuthnot
Merrill Joan Gerber tells the true, heartfelt story of her aging mother and an orphaned kitten she found under her house. This story contrasts the sad fate of an old woman who is confined to a nursing home and who daily expresses her wish to die with the budding life of a Manx kitten who is learning to live. While Gerber's mother constantly complains about her paralysis, the neglect of the nursing home staff, and the parade of roommates, Maxie the kitten, bounces around the house tearing up furniture and purring in the laps of his adoring fans. To perk her mother up, the author brings the new arrival in a cage to meet her mother, only to have the kitten rejected. However, with time, even Mother learns to love the kitten in her own way (she names him) and asks after his welfare.

This book brings both joy to the heart and tears to the eyes. Anyone unfamiliar with nursing homes and dying parents soon becomes aware of the sadness and helplessness attached to modern aging. People now live longer and sometimes suffer lingering deaths as a result. Not only is this hard on the elderly, it is also tough on their children. The grown children have to see the suffering and try to deal with the problems that are a part of nursing home care. They feel guilt at not being able to care for their elderly parents themselves. The addition of the new helpless kitten made this a wonderful book because the reader laughs at the antics of the little animal. He, too, is helpless, but he is also hopeful for his future as a grown cat. This book seems to be about life and death as well as a writer's journey into the reversal of roles in taking care of her mother.

Copyright 2000 by Cynthia Arbuthnot for Sharpwriter.com. All Rights Reserved.

Ilene Sirocca
Merrill Joan Gerber begins her story on a December morning when she finds a stray kitten in a crawl space under her house. She has many responsibilities-home, career, family-and she must devote more and more time to her mother, who is in a nursing home. Rescuing and raising a kitten seems to be something she would wish to avoid. To her own surprise, however, she welcomes this new pet into her home and her heart. Soon she is exposed to all the joys, fears and surprises that anyone who has raised a kitten to maturity can understand. At the same time, Merrill faces frustration, distress and deepening despair as her mother's illness worsens.

Old Mother, Little Cat celebrates life, marriage, work and family. It also describes human unhappiness and physical suffering so honestly that reading about them can be painful. Ms. Gerber is unsparing in her self-evaluation as a woman who deeply loves her mother but sometimes can barely get through a visit with her. She admits feeling guilty, impatient and depressed as she tries to make the older woman's life easier-a nearly impossible task. Meanwhile she finds relief and solace in loving the kitten as it grows from an adorable baby to an independent young cat. She also appreciates her good fortune in having the support of her husband, children and sister.

This memoir has such a familiar ring that it occasionally is reminiscent of a family drama or, in lighthearted moments, a situation comedy. The writing, which is excellent, is not to blame for this feeling; it arises because the experiences related here are universal. The book is filled with so much intense suffering, joy and unexpected humor that the phrase "I don't know whether to laugh or cry" is truly applicable.

At the beginning of the book, Ms. Gerber expresses the hope that through her writing she might help others who are in similar situations. I do not know if the story will make these people feel better, but it will help them realize that they are not alone. By sharing her thoughts and emotions with us, the author shows us that there is no age limit on happiness, pain, or the need to give and receive love. Old Mother, Little Cat is not always easy to read, but it is definitely worth the effort.

Copyright 2000 Ilene Sirocca
RunningRiver Reader (tm)

Katie Greene
As Merrill Gerber steps outside her kitchen door on a dreary winter morning, her mind on the burdensome prospect of her regular visit to her mother in the nursing home, she hears the small, forlorn cry of a lost baby kitten.

With this scene begins a remarkable, deeply personal narrative by acclaimed fiction writer Merrill Joan Gerber. In a journal covering just less than a year, Gerber weaves together two journeys - one into the joy and renewal of emerging life, the other into the anguished helplessness of aging.

OLD MOTHER, LITTLE CAT by Merrill Joan Gerber, author of KING OF THE WORLD and THE KINGDOM OF BROOKLYN, is an introspective memoir.
US Times Bestseller

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781563522499
Publisher:
Longstreet Press, Inc.
Publication date:
08/21/1995
Pages:
240
Product dimensions:
6.35(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.03(d)

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