Cleo: The Cat Who Mended a Family

Cleo: The Cat Who Mended a Family

by Helen Brown

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780806534411
Publisher: Kensington
Publication date: 09/01/2010
Sold by: Penguin Random House Publisher Services
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 352,295
File size: 539 KB

About the Author

Helen Brown was born and brought up in New Zealand, where she first worked as a journalist, TV presenter, and scriptwriter. A multi-award-winning columnist, Helen now lives in Melbourne, Australia, with her family and feline. Cleo rose to the top of the bestseller lists in its first weeks in the United States, United Kingdom, New Zealand, France, and Australia, and has been translated into more than sixteen languages. 

You can visit Helen Brown at www.helenbrown.au and follow her on Facebook.

Read an Excerpt

Cleo

The Cat Who Mended a Family
By HELEN BROWN

CITADEL PRESS

Copyright © 2009 Helen Brown
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-8065-3303-2


Chapter One

Choice

A cat chooses its owner, not the other way around.

"We're not getting a kitten," I said, negotiating our station wagon around a bend the shape of a pretzel. "We're just going to look at them."

The road to Lena's house was complicated by its undulations, not to mention the steepness. It snaked over what would qualify as mountains in most parts of the world. There wasn't much beyond Lena's house except a few sheep farms and a stony beach.

"You said we could get a kitten," Sam whined from the backseat before turning to his younger brother for support. "Didn't she?"

The backseat was usually the boys' battleground. Between two brothers aged nearly nine and six the dynamic was predictable. Sam would set Rob up with a surreptitious jab that would be rewarded with a kick, demanding retaliation with a thump, escalating into recriminations and tears-"He punched me!" "That's 'cos he pinched me first." But this time they were on the same side, and my usual role of judge and relationship counselor had been supplanted by a simpler one-the Enemy.

"Yeah, it's not fair," Rob chimed in. "You said."

"What I said was we might get a kitten one day. One big dog is enough for any family. What would Rata do? She'd hate having a cat in the house."

"No, she wouldn't. Golden retrievers like cats," Sam replied. "I read it in my pet book."

There was no point recalling the number of times we'd seen Rata disappear into undergrowth in pursuit of an unfortunate member of the feline species. Since Sam had given up trying to become a superhero and thrown his Batman mask to the back of his wardrobe, he'd morphed into an obsessive reader brimming with facts to destroy any argument I could dredge up.

I didn't want a cat. I probably wasn't even a cat person. My husband, Steve, certainly wasn't. If only Lena hadn't smiled so brightly that day at our neighborhood playgroup when she'd asked: "Would you like a kitten?" If only she hadn't said it so loudly-and in front of the kids.

"Wow! We're getting a kitten!" Sam had yelled before I had a chance to answer.

"Wow! Wow!" Rob had echoed, jumping up and down in his sneakers with the holes I'd been trying to ignore.

Even before we'd met Lena I'd been in awe of her. A willowy beauty with an eclectic fashion style, she'd migrated from Holland in her late teens to become a highly regarded painter. Her portraits invariably contained political comment about race, sex or religion. An artist in the deepest sense, she also chose to live independently from men with her three children. Personally, I wouldn't have been surprised if Lena had summoned her offspring from some parallel universe only she and Pablo Picasso had access codes to. I wasn't about to make a fuss about a kitten in front of her.

* * *

Raising a pair of boys was proving to be more demanding than I'd imagined back when I was a schoolgirl watching baby-shampoo ads on television. If there'd been an Olympic medal for teenage-mother naivety, I'd have won gold. Married and pregnant at nineteen, I'd smiled at the notion of babies waking up at night. Those were other people's babies. Reality struck with Sam's birth. I'd tried to grow up fast. Midnight phone calls to Mum three hundred kilometers away hadn't always been helpful ("He must be teething, dear"). Fortunately, older, more experienced mothers had taken pity on me. With kindness and great patience they'd guided me through Motherhood 101. I'd eventually learned to accept that sleep is a luxury and a mother is only ever as happy as her saddest child. So in those closing days of 1982 I was doing okay. They were gorgeous boys, and put it this way: I hadn't been to the supermarket wearing a nightgown under my coat for several months.

We were living in Wellington, a city famous for two things-bad weather and earthquakes. We'd just managed to purchase a house with the potential to expose us to both: a bungalow halfway down a zigzag on a cliff directly above a major fault line.

Minor earthquakes were so common we hardly noticed when walls trembled and plates rattled. But people said Wellington was overdue for a massive quake like the one of 1855, when great tracts of land disappeared into the sea and were flung up in other places.

It certainly seemed like our bungalow clung to the hill as if it was prepared for something terrible to happen. There was a faded fairytale appeal to its pitched roof, dark-beamed cladding and shutters. Mock Tudor meets Arts and Crafts, it wasn't shabby chic; it was just plain shabby. My efforts to create a cottage garden had resulted in an apology of forget-me-nots along the front path.

Quaint as it was, clearly the house had been built with a family of alpine goats in mind. There was no garage, not even a street frontage. The only way to reach it was to park the car up at road level, high above our roofline, and bundle groceries and children's gear into our arms. Gravity would take care of the rest, sucking us down several zigs and zags to our gate.

We were young, so it was no problem on sunny days when the harbor was blue and as flat as a dinner plate. Whenever a southerly gale roared up from Antarctica, however, tearing at our coat buttons and flinging rain in our faces, we wished we'd bought a more sensible house.

But we loved living a twenty-minute walk from town. Equipped with ropes and rock-climbing shoes we could have made it in five. When we headed into the city, an invisible force would send us plummeting down the lower end of the zigzag. Hurtling through scrub and flax bushes, we'd pause for a glimpse. A circle of amethyst hills, stark and steep, rose above us. I was amazed we could be part of such beauty.

The path then pulled us across an old wooden footbridge spanning the main road. From there we could either take steps down to the bus stop or continue our perpendicular journey to the Houses of Parliament and central railway station. The slog home from the city was another matter. It took twice as long and demanded the lungs of a mountaineer.

The zigzag had a sharply divided social structure. There was a Right Side, on which substantial two-story houses nestled in gardens with aspirations to Tuscany. And the Wrong Side, where bungalows sprinkled themselves like afterthoughts along the edge of the cliff. Wrong Side people tended to have weed collections rather than gardens.

The prestige of jobs declined in direct correlation to the zigzag's slope. On the top right-hand side Mr. Butler's house sat like a castle. Grey and two-story, it oozed superiority not only over the neighborhood but the city in general.

Below Mr. Butler's, a two-story house opened out over the harbor, looking as if it would hardly be bothered by mere social comparisons. With eaves graceful as seagull's wings, it seemed ready to take off in the next decent gale to a far more glamorous world. Rick Desilva ran a record company. People said that before they were married, his wife, Ginny, had been a fashion model, New Zealand's answer to Jean Shrimpton. Shielded behind a thicket of vegetation that no doubt could be dried and smoked, they had a reputation for parties.

There was a ridiculous rumor that Elton John had been seen staggering out of their house drunk as a dog, though in reality it was just someone who looked like him. Their son, Jason, was at the same school as our boys. They were perched on the lip of a gully about half a mile farther up the hill, but we kept our distance. The Desilvas had a sports car. Steve said they were too racy. I had no energy to argue.

Our side of the zigzag specialized in recluses and people who were renting for a while before moving somewhere less exposed, with better access and not so close to the fault line. Mrs. Sommerville, a retired high school teacher, was one of the few longtime residents of the Wrong Side. She inhabited a tidy weatherboard house one down from us. A lifetime with adolescents had done nothing for her looks. She wore a permanent expression of someone who'd just received an insult.

Mrs. Sommerville had already appeared on our doorstep with complaints about our dog terrorizing her cat, Tomkin, a large tabby cat with a matching sour face. Even though I tried to avoid her, I bumped into her most days, giving her the opportunity to point out skid marks where boys had been zooming down the zigzag illegally on skateboards, or the latest graffiti on her letterbox. Mrs. Sommerville's pathological dislike of boys included our sons, who were suspects of every crime. Steve said I was imagining things. While she loathed boys, Mrs. Sommerville knew how to turn the charm on for men.

* * *

I worked at home, writing a weekly column for Wellington's morning newspaper, The Dominion. Steve worked one week home, one week away, as radio officer on one of the ferries that plowed between the North and South Islands. We'd met at a ship's party when I was fifteen. A grand old man of twenty, he was the most exotic creature I'd ever encountered. Compared to the farmers who steered us around country dance halls near New Plymouth where I grew up, he was from another world.

His face was peachy white and he had baby-soft hands. I'd been mesmerized by his blue eyes, which glowed under their long lashes. Unlike the farmers, he hadn't been frightened of conversation. I'd assumed that being English, he was probably related to one of the Beatles, if not the Rolling Stones.

I'd loved the way his tawny hair draped across his collar, just like Paul McCartney's. He'd smelled of diesel oil and salt, the perfume of the wider world that was impatient for me to join it.

We'd written to each other for three years. I'd sprinted through school and a journalism course (straight Cs), then flown to England. Steve was literally the man of my dreams-I'd met him in person for only two weeks during the three years we'd been letter writing-and reality had no hope of matching up. His parents were probably unimpressed with his big-boned girlfriend from the colonies.

We'd married in the Guildford registry office a month after my eighteenth birthday. Only five people had been brave enough to turn up for the ceremony. The officiant was so bored he forgot to mention the ring. My new husband slipped it on my finger afterwards outside in the porch. It was raining. Distraught back in New Zealand, my parents investigated the possibilities of annulment, but they were powerless.

About two weeks after the wedding I'd stared at the toilet seat in our rented flat and thought it needed polishing. That was when I knew getting married had been a mistake. Yet we'd upset so many people by insisting on it I couldn't back out. Short of running away and causing more pain, the only solution I could think of was to create a family. Steve reluctantly obliged. Honest from the start, he'd made it clear that babies weren't really his thing.

We returned to New Zealand, where I'd labored through a December night too frightened to ask the nurse to turn the light on in case it was breaking hospital rules. Somewhere through a drug-induced haze I'd heard the doctor singing "Morning Has Broken." Minutes later she'd lifted baby Sam from my body.

Before he'd even taken his first breath he turned his head and stared into my face with his huge blue eyes. I thought I'd explode with love. My body ached to hold this brand-new human with his downy hair glowing under the delivery room lights. Sam was wrapped in a blanket-blue in case I forgot what sex he was-and lowered into my arms. Kissing his forehead, I was overcome by the sensation that I'd never be safely inside my own skin again. I uncurled his tiny fist. His lifeline was strong and incredibly long.

Even though it was supposed to be our first meeting, Sam and I recognized each other immediately. It felt like a reunion of ancient souls who'd never spent long apart.

Becoming parents hadn't brought Steve and me closer together. In fact, it had the opposite effect. Two and a half years after Sam's birth Rob slid into the world.

Lack of sleep and jangled nerves had made our differences more apparent. Steve sprouted a beard, a look that was becoming fashionable, and retreated behind it. Returning from a week at sea, he was tired and irritable.

He became annoyed with what he perceived as my extravagance over the boys' clothes and upkeep. I bought a secondhand sewing machine that emitted electric shocks and I taught myself to cut their hair. I grew louder, larger and more untidy.

The times we weren't sure how much longer we could stay together were interspersed with phases of holding on and hoping things might improve for the sake of the boys. Even though we were drifting apart like icebergs on opposing ocean currents, there was absolutely no doubt we both loved them.

* * *

"Now, boys," I said, pulling up outside Lena's house and heaving the handbrake high as it would go. "Don't get your hopes up. We're just going to look."

They scrambled out of the car and were halfway down the path to Lena's house before I'd closed the driver's door. Watching their blond hair catch the sunlight, I sighed and wondered if there'd ever be a time I wouldn't be struggling to catch up with them.

Lena had opened the door by the time I got there, and the boys were already inside. I apologized for their bad manners. Lena smiled and welcomed me into the enviable tranquillity of her home, which overlooked the playing field where I often took the boys to run off excess energy.

"We've just come to look at the ..." I said as she escorted me into her living room. "Oh, kittens! Aren't they adorable?"

In a corner, under some bookshelves, a sleek bronze cat lay on her side. She gazed at me through amber eyes that belonged not to a cat but a member of the aristocracy. Nestled into her abdomen were four appendages. Two were coated with a thin layer of bronze hair. Two were darker. Perhaps once their fur had grown they'd turn out to be black. I'd seen recently born kittens before, but never ones as tiny as these. One of the darker kittens was painfully small.

The boys were on their knees in awe of this nativity scene. They seemed to know to keep a respectful distance.

"They've only just opened their eyes," Lena said, scooping one of the bronze kittens from the comfort of its twenty-four-hour diner. The creature barely fitted inside her hand. "They'll be ready to go to new homes in a couple of months."

The kitten squirmed and emitted a noise that sounded more like a yip than a meow. Its mother glanced up anxiously. Lena returned the infant to the fur-lined warmth of its family to be assiduously licked. The mother used her tongue like a giant mop, swiping parallel lines across her baby's body, then over its head for good measure.

"Can we get one, please, PLEASE?" Sam begged, looking up at me with that expression parents struggle to resist.

"Please?" his brother echoed. "We won't throw mud on Mrs. Sommerville's roof anymore."

"You've been throwing mud on Mrs. Sommerville's roof?!"

"Idiot!" Sam said, rolling his eyes and jabbing Rob with his elbow.

But the kittens ... and there was something about the mother. She was so self-assured and elegant. I'd never seen a cat like her. She was smaller than an average cat, but her ears were unusually large. They rose like a pair of matching pyramids from her triangular face. Darker stripes on her forehead whispered of a jungle heritage. Short hair, too. My mother always said short-haired cats were clean.

"She's a wonderful mother, pure Abyssinian," Lena explained. "I tried to keep an eye on her, but she escaped into the bamboos for a couple of nights a while back. We don't know who the father is. A wild tom, I guess."

Abyssinian. I hadn't heard of that breed. Not that my knowledge of pedigreed cats was encyclopedic. I'd once known a Siamese called Lap Chow, the pampered familiar of my ancient piano teacher, Mrs. McDonald. Our three-way relationship was doomed from the start. The only thing that hurt more than Mrs. McDonald's ruler whacking my fingers as they fumbled over the keys was Lap Chow's hypodermic-needle claws sinking into my ankles. Between the two of them they did a good job creating a lifelong prejudice against music lessons and pedigreed cats.

"Some people say Abyssinians are descended from the cats the ancient Egyptians worshipped," Lena continued.

It certainly wasn't difficult to imagine this feline priestess presiding over a temple. The combination of alley cat and royalty had allure. If the kittens manifested the best attributes of both parents (classy yet hardy), they could turn out to be something special. If, on the other hand, less desirable elements of royalty and rough trade (fussy and feral) came to the fore in the offspring, we could be in for a roller-coaster ride.

"There's only one kitten left," Lena added. "The smaller black one."

Of course people had gone for the larger, healthier-looking kittens first. The bronze ones probably had more appeal, as they had a better chance of turning out looking purebred like their mother. I'd already decided I preferred the black ones, though not necessarily the runt with its bulging eyes and patchy tufts of fur.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from Cleo by HELEN BROWN Copyright © 2009 by Helen Brown. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Contents

Choice....................1
A Name....................12
Loss....................19
The Intruder....................30
Trust....................38
Awakening....................49
Taming the Beast....................58
Healer....................65
Goddess....................74
Resuscitation....................79
Compassion....................89
Huntress....................97
Letting Go....................103
Observer....................113
Indulgence....................122
Replacement....................129
Rebirth....................138
Risk....................142
Resilience....................151
Openness....................161
The Kiss....................172
Exposure....................179
Respect....................188
People and Places....................194
Freedom....................201
Witch's Cat....................208
Absence....................217
Patience....................232
Missing....................240
Purr Power....................249
Connection....................254
Forgiveness....................258
Conversion....................267
Tough Vet, Soft Vet....................276
Renewal....................282
Acknowledgments....................291

Customer Reviews

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Cleo 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 63 reviews.
retromom More than 1 year ago
This book is a wonderful, moving memoir about a cat who helps heal a family after a horrific tragedy strikes them. We get a glimpse into Helen's life after she loses her son, Sam. The family had arranged to adopt Cleo as a birthday present for Sam. When Cleo is delivered to the family, the last thing they were thinking about was giving a kitten a home. They were grieving after losing Sam. As soon as Helen's son, Rob holds Cleo, he smiles for the first time in a very long time. Cleo was indeed home and on her way to becoming a part of the family. I enjoyed reading about Cleo's crazy cat antics. Cleo certainly made her presence known right from the start. Anyone who is owned by a cat knows how insane life can become with a small kitten running the show. You also know how loving a cat can be especially in our times of need. Cleo was no exception. It was as though she knew she had an important job to do and that was to help her family through a terribly trying time. I loved reading about Cleo's adventures with her family. The story is both touching and amusing. The book is not just about Cleo but about a family moving forward after a tragic time in their lives. By the end of the book I felt as though I knew Helen, Cleo and the whole family and had taken the journey along side them. I have always thought that animals possess a healing quality and Cleo has shown me that to be true. I loved this book and highly recommend it, even if you are not a cat lover! Be sure to have Kleenex close by. This book will have you in tears at times, some happy tears, some sad tears and some from laughing so hard at Cleo's shenanigans. I enjoyed Helen's sense of humor. Pets and laughter can be the best medicine of all! This book will stay with me for a long time to come.
MEM52 More than 1 year ago
I don't ordinarily read this kind of book, but I have to confess, I was drawn to it because I myself have a black cat named Cleo whom I got as a kitten, so seeing the cover was startling and I knew I had to read the book. I have to admit that despite my trying to resist, the story of this little black cat and the family who adopted her drew me right in. Unlike many stories of this kind, Brown writes in a no-nonsense voice, pleasantly devoid of excessive sentimentality, and the story never turns maudlin, even when sad events happen. I'll admit to being a little teary-eyed at the end, surprised at how moved I was. I'm a "cat person" - I've lived with cats all my life - and I have to say, Ms. Brown perhaps anthopomorphizes Cleo just a bit too much - but no matter. I still couldn't put the book down and finished it in a day and a half over the weekend. One thing that did NOT please me, though, is how the publisher chose to Americanize the spelling and usage for the American edition, as though American readers would not recognize "harbour," "centre," or degees of temperature in Celsius (check the first few pages of the book on Amazon's U.K. site if you want to verify this). Translate from another language, certainly, but we DON'T need a translation from New Zealand English! Nonetheless, a charming, heartwarming story, if nothing groundbreaking, with particular appeal to animal lovers. Grab a box of tissues and enjoy.
winecat on LibraryThing 10 months ago
Wonderful, touching, heartbreaking, breathtaking book. An extraordinary cat helps a family move through life from tragedy to happily ever after. I cried through the last 3 chapters. Great book to share with your childs.
zibilee on LibraryThing 10 months ago
When Helen Brown's two young sons see the neighbor's litter of kittens for the first time, she's staunch about not bringing any of the new babies into her home. When she sees the tiny runt of the litter, she falls in love with the little kitten and agrees to welcome the little bundle into her home when the kittens are old enough to be weaned. But before the delivery date is due, a terrible accident befalls Helen's family and her older son is killed in a horrible traffic accident. The Brown's world is crushed, and no matter what they try, they can't seem to get over the loss of Sam. One day a neighbor pops over to deliver the new kitten. Of course Helen is mortified and thinks of as many excuses as she can to deny the new addition, but as soon as the cat snuggles into her chest, her heart begins to melt and Helen's prejudices are pushed aside. The cat, named Cleo, is instantly at home in the house and quickly wraps everyone around her little paw. Devious and playful, Cleo's antics give the family something to focus on besides their grief, and her cuddliness and winsome attitude soon make this house of confessed dog lovers prey to the whims of an unusual and special feline. As Cleo teaches Helen and her family about healing and redemption, they come to envelop the cat into all areas of their hearts. Through the years, Cleo becomes not only an ally to be counted on, but the center of healing for the broken and careworn family. At times hilariously funny and at others tearfully sad, the story of Cleo: The Cat Who Mended a Family is not only a great story for animal lovers, but for anyone who is dealing with unexpected heartache and change.There are tons of animal books out there right now, and for the most part, I stay away from them. If you know me personally, you'd think this is very strange indeed, because I'm a huge animal lover and have a houseful of pets of all varieties. I've had pets all my life, from chinchillas and turtles to ducks and snakes, and of course the run of the mill dogs and cats. So I would be the perfect person to enjoy these stories of extraordinary animals, right? Well, that's not exactly what happens. I get all invested in these stories and come to love the animals in the books and feel a deeper and stronger connection to the animals I live with... and then the subject of the animal book dies. And I cry something fierce and ugly, and I vow to never read another book like it again. I figure what I need is an animal book that doesn't over-sentimentalize this point of the book and that doesn't build me up to a point where I'm heart sore for days after turning the last page. I got all that and more in Cleo, and though there were some things that I didn't really like about the book, the one thing that I did like was the straightforward and no-nonsense coverage of some of the more touchy and sensitive parts of this unusual cat's life.A few things struck me as odd. First of all, I thought there might be a little too much anthropomorphizing of Cleo than was strictly necessary, and while the description of some of the things she did sounded very human, I guess it was a little hard for me to believe that she was sort of like a human trapped in a cat's body. During the early sections, Helen goes to great pains to let the reader know that Cleo seemed to be a bundle of energy, and somehow interprets this as Cleo's way of giving the other human residents in the house something to focus on besides their grief. I can certainly understand that she would see it that way, but being the owner of kittens at many different times in my life, I have to say that this is not all that unique a trait. Kittens are normally very playful and at times destructive by nature. They are often more self-absorbed than Helen thinks her cat is, and I can't exactly say that Cleo's personality was all that different from a lot of cats I've had. Maybe this struck Helen because she'd never been a cat owner before, but after awhile, Cleo lost her sp
GRgenius on LibraryThing 10 months ago
Where to begin! All the classic words of tender, heartwarming, heart breaking, and the like...so over used and yet so befitting this story. Cleo will work her way into your heart from the very start, lead you on a journey through the ups and downs that is life as conducted by her, and bring you back to earth heavy hearted but full of life and appreciation for the beauty that it holds. Even now as I type this brief review, I can't help but tear up....it really is that wonderful. One quick word to the wise....it's an emotional roller coaster in there with highs AND lows, so be sure to have tissues close by. Recommended reading for cat lovers, but really animal lovers in general....I truly believe there is not a person out there that this book cannot resonate with. Happy reading!
bookaholicmom on LibraryThing 10 months ago
This book is a wonderful, moving memoir about a cat who helps heal a family after a horrific tragedy strikes them. We get a glimpse into Helen's life after she loses her son, Sam. The family had arranged to adopt Cleo as a birthday present for Sam. When Cleo is delivered to the family, the last thing they were thinking about was giving a kitten a home. They were grieving after losing Sam. As soon as Helen's son, Rob holds Cleo, he smiles for the first time in a very long time. Cleo was indeed home and on her way to becoming a part of the family. I enjoyed reading about Cleo's crazy cat antics. Cleo certainly made her presence known right from the start. Anyone who is owned by a cat knows how insane life can become with a small kitten running the show. You also know how loving a cat can be especially in our times of need. Cleo was no exception. It was as though she knew she had an important job to do and that was to help her family through a terribly trying time. I loved reading about Cleo's adventures with her family. The story is both touching and amusing. The book is not just about Cleo but about a family moving forward after a tragic time in their lives. By the end of the book I felt as though I knew Helen, Cleo and the whole family and had taken the journey along side them. I have always thought that animals possess a healing quality and Cleo has shown me that to be true. I loved this book and highly recommend it, even if you are not a cat lover! Be sure to have Kleenex close by. This book will have you in tears at times, some happy tears, some sad tears and some from laughing so hard at Cleo's shenanigans. I enjoyed Helen's sense of humor. Pets and laughter can be the best medicine of all! This book will stay with me for a long time to come.
sweb4us on LibraryThing 10 months ago
Helen Brown KNEW that she and her husband weren't cat people. She also knew that taking her sons to visit a friend's new litter of kittens was probably a mistake, but that didn't stop her from going. When her sons Sam and Rob fell for the runt of the litter, a tiny black kitten with a disproportionate face and sparse fur, she tried valiantly to be resolute. What on Earth would Rata, their aging Golden Retriever, think about a feline interloper joining the household?When her older son Sam asked to have the kitten as a birthday present, however, even agreeing to wait long past his actual birthday until the kitten was old enough to leave its mother, her resolve crumbled. Against her better judgement but tugging on her heartstrings, the scrawny black ball of fluff was going to join their family. Sam decided to name her Cleopatra, or Cleo for short.While waiting for Cleo to grow enough to join their family, The Browns continued to live life one day at a time, blithely ignorant of the tragedy that was to befall just weeks after they saw Cleo for the first time. What happened in the blink of an eye would alter the course of their lives forever after, and only Cleo's arrival breaks their despondency and sets them back on the course of life.Through trials and truimphs, family additions and subtractions, and household changes in configuration and location, Cleo weaves herself into the heart and soul of the family. The story of her life and those who love her make up the balance of this story, and without revealing spoilers, I really can't divulge more details.This was a very emotional, engaging memoir. I enjoyed reading it tremendously, and being a mother and cat owner myself , I was able to identify with the author in several instances. I laughed, I sighed, and I even shed a few silent tears in appropriate places. Cleo's story is a family story of life, love, and the neverending pursuit of happiness that every family experiences every single day.
richardderus on LibraryThing 10 months ago
The Book Report: A family devastated by loss takes in a little black mutt-kitten and learns, painfully and slowly and with much trouble, to live the lives they've been allowed to keep despite the life that was lost. Marriages begin and end, relationships resemble the ones they began as not at all, and through it all, for a remarkable twenty-four years, a proud black cat runs the entire world from a succession of Kiwi then Aussie kitchens, living rooms, and Asian-run delis. One day she dies, and the pain of loss renews its hold on the current family configuration...gently, clawlessly, and with a sense of the rightness of life even in the absence of our dearly, dearly beloved.My Review: I know that the publisher feels this is superlative writing. It's plenty good enough to tell the author's story. It's not lighting up the literary firmament. But the story is the star here. It's touching and it's heartfelt; it's amazing how honest one can feel the author being; and it's quite endearing how exasperated this woman spends her life being with her lot in life.Reading about loss is always problematic for those who have suffered it...I lost my own son at an early age...but let me tell you now that grief and grieving end up being the constants of life so it's a damn good idea to get the coping techniques of others into your head and stat. You could do a lot worse than start here.There is a moment near the end of the book, one which for obvious reasons I won't go into in a review, but that moment, that single page and a half, would make this book worth the US$16 it costs. Peace descends on us in the oddest ways, at the strangest times, and there is absolutely no earthly connection between the ease and the suffering it replaces. Unearthly connections, well, those I am not qualified to analyze.So then, I hear you thinking, why'd you give the book a mingy three stars? It's about a cat. That's unforgivable.
Poemyhero on LibraryThing 10 months ago
I saw this book at Borders and the cover caught my eye, so I wrote it down and requested that my library add it to their collection. The cover had the most exquisite little being just starting at me with captivating green eyes. Beside the pictured cat it read, "The next Marley & Me"- Good Housekeeping. I adored reading Marley & Me and, being that I currently have ten cats, I knew I had to read this book. Cleo has become one of my new favorite reads. Helen's writing is hand-crafted to every word, meaning that she's very meticulous and high descriptive in her choice of words. Every sentence is very picturesque. I loved how she could describe a site or action. Her writing was rather inspiring, as was Cleo.Reading Cleo often made me slow down and think of how our kitties (and for some reason I'm always drawn to Jasmine, our first cat) and how they did some of the same things. What it did point out is that she was not a "cat person," as she already did have a dog. Yet she found specialness in this cat. It was hard not to. The cat sure did mend her family in many ways. I sympathized with the process because our cats have done the same for us, particularly my Jasmine.I felt like I went through all the ups and downs with them, and boy did they have many. This book leaves me a warm place in my heart, and that (along with the incredible writing), is why I feel it is well deserving of a five. I'm grateful that my library did in fact add the book after my suggestion. Any cat lover, animal lover, or person with a heart for other beings will love it and devour the book.
TheDivineOomba on LibraryThing 10 months ago
Before I begin, I will disclose to you that I read this book very light at night, while obsession over a house decision (its good! It really is!)So, as a result, this review is based on my reading of when I was not completely 100 % (which isn't fair, I know, but I won't be re-reading this book, and I want to review every book I read)Okay, so the actual review. I loved this book! The author manages to write a memoir that is held together by the cat, but not really about the cat (make sense?) Cleo arrives at a time when she is most needed, and manages to distract the authors son with her cute kitten antics, the author with her cute kitten cuddliness. She even manages to distract with her kittenish destruction of the house. As Cleo ages from kitten to adult, to senior cat, we get the story of the family from divorce, to true love and happiness.This is a warm, happy, sad, lovely written story that any animal lover will enjoy.Also, and observation. It seems there are non-cat people who love that special, individual cat. Then there are those that love all cats, all places. The story is about the first person. She didn't want a cat, but acquired one anyway. The cat managed to become a very loved part of the family. When the cat died, it wasn't a cat to be replaced, but a family member.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If you enjoy books about family trials and how pets bring happiness to family members through the bonds they share, then this book is for you.
mochasmom54 More than 1 year ago
A must-read for cat lovers. Helen Brown has a wonderful writing style, will make you laugh one minute and cry the next. You will definitely see some of your cat's antics in Cleo. I couldn't wait to read more, but didn't want the book to end.
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I bought this book at my local BJS and loved it. Helen never had a thought about adopting a kitten until her sons convinced her to get Cleo, an irrestable black runt. Soon after,Sam, her oldest skn, is tragically hit by a car and killed. Cleo arrives a couple months later, and Helen is about to give her back until she sees Rob, her youngest son, do something she hasn't seen in a long time- his smile. Cleo mends the family through every moment, both good and bad. This story was probably the best I've read since Warriors. 20 stars. I am looking for the sequel, Cats and Daughters, aka After Cleo Comes Jonah.
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