The Barnes & Noble Review
What is it about women and cats? Clea Simon offers a thoughtful, gracefully written reflection on this powerful bond, interweaving history and contemporary anecdotes with the saga of her own gray cat, Cyrus.
Cat lovers will warm to the many cat stories in the book, but I bet they will especially appreciate her take on familiar stereotypes (the crazy old woman with her cats, the single woman alone with her cats, the witch with her cat companion). It is the power of the connection between women and cats, contends Simon, that inspires such jealousy and derision.
In fact, living with a cat has profound psychological benefits. Cats teach us that we can be discriminating; that we need not give false encouragement to everyone we meet. Notes Simon, "It is true, although not in the way our critics would have it, that we practice many human roles in private with our pets. They are our best girlfriend, to whom we can complain when our time is torn between jobs or between managing the home and marriage. They may be our peers and sometimes even our parents, who let us bounce ideas around and help us reach our own decisions."
Next time anyone refers to your cat as a child substitute, hand him this book.
Simon (Fatherless Women) draws on personal experience, research, and interviews with female cat owners to explore the unique relationship between women and cats. She seeks to dispel negative old wives' tales about women and cats, creating a work that largely offers her own insights and reflections. She also examines how cats and women have been intertwined in historical myths and stereotypes, from the Egyptian cat-headed goddess Bastet, to the 15th-century burning of witches and their feline familiars, to the modern Catwoman. Throughout are stories of women and their cats, including a shelter worker, a tiger trainer, and a number of artists. Simon includes her own touching story of 17 years with her recently deceased cat, Cyrus, and explores how the female-feline relationship affects other relationships in a woman's life. A bibliography and list of cat rescue organizations accompany the work. Lovingly written, Simon's work offers an unusual perspective on an age-old topic and makes a suitable purchase for large public libraries. Eva Lautemann, Georgia Perimeter Coll., Clarkston Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Journalist and memoir author Simon (Mad House, 1997) perceptively examines the close relationship between women and cats. Drawing on her experiences with the much-loved Cyrus, whom she acquired when single and at the start of her writing career, Simon deftly mixes personal anecdotes and interviews with references to mythology and popular culture. She calls Cyrus the "feline barometer" against which she measured herself and her intimates; her tales about living with him complement the cat lore here. Cats play an important role in many women's relationships with men, Simon demonstrates, describing her own and others' romances ending because Mr. Wrong disliked or was insensitive to the cats in their lives. Simon herself eventually finds and marries a man who loves cats and (just as important) meets with Cyrus's approval. She analyzes some stereotypical assumptions, such as the idea that women who collect more cats than they can take care of suffer from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. The legendary relation between cats and witchcraft, Simon suggests, may have been fueled by male fears of women's sexuality ("our most feline feature") and the ancient belief that cats had psychic powers, which led historically to the demonization of females and felines. She finds the myth of cats as evil creatures with feminine characteristics still perpetuated in comics like Batman, where the superhero contends with the wicked Catwoman. Simon visits women who help feral and abandoned cats; she addresses the issues of feeding, neutering, declawing, and death. She profiles various individuals: the vegetarian who cooks chicken for Missy; the cat who teaches a young and thoughtless college graduate to be a goodmother; Rudy and Gigi, who fill their owner's empty nest after the children leave. Most touching of all is her tribute to the departed Cyrus, her comfort for 16 years and "the perfect companion, so much personality in such a little package." Wide-ranging and perfectly pitched: both sensitive and sensible.