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From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
If you read the paper, you know Christopher Wren. Stylish, insightful and worldly, Wren’s New York Times articles have interpreted foreign politics for the American public for decades. But we don’t know Wren, really, until we read this book. Here, the über-analyst of foreign politics details the real life of foreign affairs by chronicling the adventures of his traveling cat, Henrietta. Wren’s stories are funny, homey, and sweet -- and through them, we learn what it is to raise a family in the unfamiliar lands of Moscow, Cairo, Beijing, Ottawa, and Johannesburg.
Wren’s story begins when he first met Henrietta, a small dust-puff with paws and whiskers. The meeting was inauspicious: “In describing Henrietta back then, ‘spunky’ and ‘intrepid’ are not the sort of words that spring to mind,” Wren sighs. “Henrietta and I didn’t think much of each other, not at first.” But as Wren grew attached to her -- and people always grow attached to their cats, no matter how peculiar they may be -- he realized that she was part of his family. So when the Wrens headed to Moscow for a foreign correspondent post, Henrietta came too. And when the Wrens then stepped off to Cairo, Henrietta stepped herself. Ditto Tokyo, Beijing, Ottawa, and Johannesburg. During her owner's career as a foreign correspondent, editor, and bureau chief, Henrietta became one of the most widely traveled animals on the globe.
As Wren relays the little day-to-day stories that define a cat’s life -- and a family’s life -- in distant lands, we see much more clearly what’s at stake in foreign politics. In Beijing, for example, Wren finds that in order to keep his cat at home, she must undergo a veterinary work-up at the hands of the People’s Liberation Army. “The army veterinarian on duty was a lanky, dour soldier with large hands, which he employed to poke and prod Henrietta, thrusting his unwashed fingers in to every orifice, oblivious to her screeches of protest,” Wren frets. “But he handled Henrietta deftly before wiping his hands on his white coat and announcing that, yes, the American cat would be permitted to live with us in Beijing.” For those of us who have never lived in Communist China, the incident evokes wonder at the strangely different, strangely similar culture. Vet visits, it seems, are a little different at the People’s Liberation Army -- but somehow they retain the soothing sense of home life.
Wren’s stories open for us a window on the fascinating world of life in a foreign bureau. Henrietta’s adventures are amusing and fun -- and they show us what our lives would be if we lived, with our cats, on the other side of the world. (Jesse Gale)