Homer's Odyssey: A Fearless Feline Tale, or How I Learned about Love and Life with a Blind Wonder Cat

Homer's Odyssey: A Fearless Feline Tale, or How I Learned about Love and Life with a Blind Wonder Cat

by Gwen Cooper


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The last thing Gwen Cooper wanted was another cat. She already had two, not to mention a phenomenally underpaying job and a recently broken heart. Then Gwen’s veterinarian called with a story about a three-week-old eyeless kitten who’d been abandoned. It was love at first sight.

Everyone warned that Homer would always be an “underachiever.” But the kitten nobody believed in quickly grew into a three-pound dynamo with a giant heart who eagerly made friends with every human who crossed his path. Homer scaled seven-foot bookcases with ease, survived being trapped alone for days after 9/11 in an apartment near the World Trade Center, and even saved Gwen’s life when he chased off an intruder who broke into their home in the middle of the night. But it was Homer’s unswerving loyalty, his infinite capacity for love, and his joy in the face of all obstacles that transformed Gwen’s life. And by the time she met the man she would marry, she realized that Homer had taught her the most valuable lesson of all: Love isn’t something you see with your eyes.

BONUS: This edition contains a new afterword and an excerpt from Gwen Cooper's Love Saves the Day.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780385343985
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 09/07/2010
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 89,059
Product dimensions: 8.28(w) x 11.28(h) x 0.69(d)

About the Author

Gwen Cooper is the author of the novel Diary of a South Beach Party Girl. A Miami native, she spent five years working in nonprofit administration, marketing, and fundraising. She coordinated volunteer activities on behalf of organizations including Pet Rescue, the Miami Lighthouse for the Blind, the Miami Rescue Mission, and His House Children’s Home, and initiated Reading Pen Pals, an elementary school-based literacy program in Miami’s Little Haiti. Gwen currently lives in Manhattan with her husband, Laurence.  She also lives with her three perfect cats–Scarlett, Vashti, and Homer—who aren’t impressed with any of it.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

* Socket to Me

Yesterday made the twentieth day that I have been tossing about upon the sea. The winds and waves have taken me all the way from the Ogyian island, and now fate has flung me upon this coast.
—Homer, The Odyssey

Years ago, back when i still had only two cats, i was fond of saying that if I ever adopted a third I would name him Meow Tse-tung and call him "The Chairman" for short.

"Don't look at me like that, it'll be cute," I would insist when my friends regarded me as if I were a loon. "Little Chairman Meow."

The joke was twofold: the name itself, and also the idea that I would adopt a third cat. I might never have taken the monumental step (so it had seemed to me at twenty-four) of adopting two except that I'd been living for three years with Jorge, the man I was sure I'd marry. We'd split up recently, and I had gained custody of our feline offspring—a sweet-tempered, fluffy white beauty named Vashti and a regal, moody gray tabby named Scarlett. I was grateful for my two girls every day, but also painfully aware of the potential complications they would create in my newly single life, complications I had never contemplated back in the days when I'd thought Jorge and I would be together forever.

I was staying in a friend's spare bedroom while I tried to save up for an affordable place to live, for example, but I would never be able to move into a more reasonably priced pet-free building. There was no point in even considering a relationship with a man who had cat allergies. I worked in nonprofit, running _volunteer programs for the United Way of Miami-Dade, and I never had more than fifty dollars in the bank at the end of the month. Nevertheless, routine vaccinations, injuries, and illnesses would have to be paid for by me alone, no matter what their impact on my finances.

"Not to mention the social implications," my best friend, Andrea, would say. "I mean, there are only so many cats you can have when you're twenty-four and single. The neighborhood kids will start calling you Old Widow Cooper and throw rocks at your windows and say things like, That's where Old Widow Cooper, the cat lady, lives. She's craaaaazy . . ."

I knew she was right; I wasn't completely out of touch with reality. In my present circumstances, talking about a third cat was an absurd hypothetical, like daydreaming about what I might buy if I won the lottery.

Then one afternoon, a couple of months after Jorge and I broke up, I got a call from Patty, a young veterinarian only three years older than I was, who was the newest member at the practice that treated Scarlett and Vashti. Patty told me a long, sad story that would have been perfect for a cable movie, if only there were a station called Lifetime for Cats.

An orphaned, four-week-old stray kitten had been abandoned at her office, she said, after a virulent eye infection had required the surgical removal of both his eyes. The couple who had originally brought him in didn't want him. Nor did any of the people on her adoption list, not even the ones who had expressed a specific interest in adopting a handicapped cat. Nobody, it seemed, wanted to face this particular handicap. I was her last call, the last possibility she could think of, before . . .
She didn't finish her sentence, and she didn't have to. I knew there was almost no chance that an eyeless kitten would be adopted from a shelter before his time ran out.

Don't, warned the Greek chorus that lives inside my head. Yes, it's sad but, honestly, you're in no position to do anything about it.

I'd always been an obsessive reader, a passionate lover of books, and I knew the kind of power words had over me. Pitting me against words like blind, abandoned, unwanted, and orphan was like sending someone armed with a toy rifle into trench warfare.

Still, I recognized the wisdom of my inner Greek chorus, even if I couldn't be as coolly analytical as it was. So I said, "I'll come in and meet him." I paused. "I'm not promising anything, though."

I should note that, prior to this, I had never taken an I'll meet him and we'll see attitude when it came to pet adoption. It never occurred to me to meet the pet in question first, to see if he was "special" or whether there was some sort of unique bond between us. My philosophy when it came to pets was much like that of having children: You got what you got, and you loved them unconditionally regardless of whatever their personalities or flaws turned out to be. While I was growing up, my family adopted or fostered numerous dogs, almost all of whom were strays or had been abused in their previous homes. We'd had dogs who couldn't be housebroken, dogs who chewed up carpeting and wallpaper, dogs who dug compulsively under fences or who even occasionally snapped when they were startled. My cats, Scarlett and Vashti, had been adopted a year apart from acquaintances who'd found them as six-week-old kittens—mange-ridden, half starved, and covered in fleas and sores—wandering the streets of Miami. I had committed to them sight unseen; the first time I'd met them had been the day they'd come to live with me.

So I felt more than a little dishonest, driving down to my vet's office the following afternoon. Patty might not know it, but I knew myself well enough to understand that when I'd said, "I'll come in and meet him," what I'd meant was, I really don't want a third cat right now, but I'd feel like a bad person if I gave you a straightforward no after hearing this cat's story. So I'm leaving myself room to wriggle off the hook.

"We have to take him. We have to let him live here" had been the immediate response of my roommate, Melissa, when I'd told her about the blind kitten the night before—"here" being Melissa's one-story, two-bedroom, waterfront South Beach home, where I split the cost of utilities, groceries, and other household expenses while I tried to save up for my own place. But Melissa was beautiful, and an heiress, and the everyday obstacles that appeared insurmountable to me at this juncture in my life weren't even blips on her radar screen. Melissa didn't have to agonize over things like higher vet bills, or being unable to eventually find a home for herself and her brood of three (three!), or the prospect of being undateable. (I could already hear imaginary conversations among these mythical men I hadn't even met yet—let alone started dating. Dude, she's smart, she's cute, she's a lot of fun—but she's got three cats! That's just messed up, dude.)

I couldn't decide if I was even the right person for a kitten like this, a kitten who would undoubtedly have special needs I couldn't begin to anticipate. What if he never learned to get around on his own? What if my other two cats hated him on sight and made his life miserable? What if I simply wasn't up to the challenge of taking care of him? I could barely take care of myself. Arguably, given that I was living in somebody else's home at the moment, I couldn't take care of myself.

I'd been encouraged, briefly, by Melissa's use of the word we. I wouldn't be in this alone. In some small, crafty corner of my brain, it occurred to me that I could bring the kitten home and, if I proved unequipped to handle him, Melissa could always . . .

"Of course, you're the one who has to make the final decision," Melissa had added a moment later, "because he'll go with you when you move out."

The thing that was speeding me toward my vet's office as surely as the wheels and motor of the car I was driving, the thing that had gotten me to agree to meet this kitten in the first place, was guilt. If I didn't take him, no one would. I had always been an easy mark when it came to animals and everybody knew it. I was a veteran weekend volunteer at Miami's various animal shelters, and—back when Jorge and I were still living together—I'd always come home in tears, pleading with him against all reason to consider adopting one of the dogs or cats who stood to be euthanized if nobody stepped forward. My only run-in with the law thus far had been the time, in college, when I'd been arrested at a protest rally outside of my university's primate research center. I'd been the kid who stray dogs and cats followed to school because I would give them all the food out of my lunchbox, without considering how I planned to feed myself at lunchtime.

And it was exactly this kind of hazy, immature thinking, I told myself somewhat viciously as I slid into the parking lot outside my vet's office, this heedless disregard for future consequences, that had landed me exactly where I currently was in life—broke and alone after years of carefully constructing what I'd thought was an unshakable future.

I realize now that I was trying to manufacture a sense of anger. It was far easier to convince myself I was angry and put-upon than it was to admit I was terrified.

Reading Group Guide

1. 1. Homer teaches Gwen many life lessons. Which would you say was most transformative in her life? Why?

2. What makes Homer such a special cat? His personality, his challenges, his circumstances, or all three?

3. Homer's life has often revolved around taking a leap of faith. What universal themes, such as this, does Homer’s story evoke?

4. What do you make of the quotes from The Odyssey that start each chapter?

5. Gwen comes to New York looking for success: in business, in life, in love. Was she right to worry about being a single gal with three cats? How does Homer help pave the way?

6. How much of a role do the Miami and New York City settings play in this book?

7. Which of Homer's abilities did you find most surprising? Why?

8. Has reading this book changed the way you think about animals with special needs? If so, in what way? What about your assumptions about people with special needs?

9. What’s your favorite Homer story? Which one made you laugh the most? And which was the most touching?

10. Do any of Homer’s habits remind you of cats you’ve known or owned?

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Homer's Odyssey: A Fearless Feline Tale, or How I Learned About Love and Life with a Blind Wonder Cat 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 267 reviews.
Robert_C More than 1 year ago
When I first heard of Homer's Odyssey I was thoroughly intrigued, however wary. I had been sent copies of a number of previous books about animals (herein unnamed) and read them voraciously only to discover the animal always died at the end. Because of that singular (and depressing) fact, I put out the word that I did NOT want to receive any more books about wonderful animals and how they changed people's lives only to find that as the book ended, so did the animal in question. Therefore, I was more than a little surprised to be sent a copy of Homer's Odyssey. I immediately went to put the book aside, when I saw a piece of paper stuck inside the cover. I opened the book and pulled out a small handwritten note which simply read "Don't worry. He lives." Homer is an exceptional cat, blind from an early age, and his real life adventure absolutely enthralled me. Far better written than most books in this genre, I found myself as amazed as the author as she learns that Homer is not only unencumbered by his blindness but is actually more capable in other areas because of it. The episode wherein the author discovers Homer's ability to catch flies in mid-air is worth noting. I definitely recommend this book. All in all it's a fine read and with that in mind I pass on my own note to you... "Don't worry. He lives."
Zas More than 1 year ago
Better yet, walk them first, fill the food and water bowls, gather treats near you, and share them generously as you read. This book is about the incredible abilities of pets, and while yours or mine will never be as incredible as Homer, you will look at them differently. I believe this book should be cross referenced in self improvement, for it is not only about a cat that others saw as too challenged to commit themselves. It is about a woman with the guts and intuition to risk herself, and learn that when you do you may find untold riches for your soul. Well written, it is both a book I could not put down, then delayed finishing. I simply did not wish it to end. Like "The Odyssey" by Homer, "Homer's Odyssey" will be a classic.
jackie88 More than 1 year ago
This is a wonderful book for cat lovers and any one who has adopted a rescue animal. Being blind, Homer had to overcome much more than usual but any rescued animal has special issues to deal with and I know I have learned a lot about trust, acceptance and gratitude from my own rescued cat. Even if you are not an "animal person" you should read this book. The two chapters about the World Trade Center attack is a very moving eye witness account of 9/11 and its aftermath. And hopefully you will see animals in a different light after hearing Homer's tale. Cooper is a talented journalist - open, honest, engaging and insightful. Reading her book is like sitting down with a friend and discussing life over a cup of coffee.
harstan More than 1 year ago
Her vet asked Gwen Cooper if she would be willing to adopt a one month old blind stray cat. Gwen planned to say no as she had two other adopted felines living with her while she temporarily resided in a friend's bedroom, not making much money, and her relationship with her boyfriend just ended. She especially did not want to be labeled the cat lady. However, when she picked up the kitty, he purred and she was hooked. Homer, as she called him, moved with her six times, was there for her with more breakups while each time figuring out his new area. He taught her to love as he gave her his totally. This is a terrific memoir mindful of Marley as Homer teaches Ms. Cooper what love is all about and how to live life with zest. Though I am biased as one of my cats went blind, this is an easy to read well written tale that not just cat lovers but readers who appreciate a well written inspirational autobiography will love. Harriet Klausner
kpsquirrel More than 1 year ago
I am an avid reader and I will vote this book as Best of The Year. It is extremely well written, funny, touching, and genuinely "feel good." Homer can teach us all about the joy of life and using the gifts we have been given. I think everyone should read this book as we can all learn from this triumphant little cat about how to lead a great life and make the most of it. What an amazing little guy!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very impressive and moving story. Homer is an inspiration. I would recommend to anyone with or without cats.
Tag-Along More than 1 year ago
I bought this book when I was looking for another non-fictional "cat book". I had arrived at the local B&N in search of one book but came across this one. I was instantly intrigued by the cover. I opened it up the read the inside sleeves. I was hooked! For anyone looking for a truly inspirational story about a wonderful cat with a heart of gold, this book is for you. I just couldn't put this book down. This book helped open my eyes to the fact that a blind cat is never really blind. He can see the world better than you could have ever imagined! I would most definitely recommend this book to anyone looking for a GREAT "cat book". I would even recommend this book to any hard-core dog fans.
TJ-New-Orleans More than 1 year ago
I often hesitate to read 'animal' books anymore, becoming so attached and suffering through such sad endings. But, Homer pulled me in and I was rewarded with an amazing story that was written extremely well (and bonus... Homer is still with us). Gwen Cooper has masterfully woven the touching story of Homer, the blind cat with amazing insight, and the story of her own journey, marked with all the drama of major moves, finding what you want to be when you grow up, surviving 9/11, and taking leaps of faith. Even "dog people" will find their inner-puppy with Homer's Odyssey.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I received an advance reviewer copy of this book from LibraryThing and having just finished it, I feel like I have to review it everywhere I can. Homer's Odyssey is truly an epic tale about a little cat, blind since he was two weeks old, that nobody believed in or wanted to take home. Homer is nothing short of inspirational and equally affecting is the story of how Homer changed the life of Gwen, his "mom" and the author of this book. I lost my job recently and this wonderful, joyful book reminded me how important persevearance and optimism are. The writing is also very beautiful and detailed. Parts of it will make you laugh, parts will make you cry. Homer is an amazing cat and Gwen Cooper is an amazing person. I highly recommend this book.
MAK-Attack More than 1 year ago
If you love animals, especially cats, you will find "Homer's Odyssey" to be a beautiful, enthralling story. Homer comes into Gwen's life unexpectedly, but wins her love almost immediately. Homer joins Gwen's other two cats Vashti and Scarlett and their adventures are delightful. The two chapters in the book dealing with Gwen's personal experience during 9/11 and her courage and determination to find her cats in its aftermath will touch your heart. The book describes in many ways that Homer knew how to live. Gwen was Homer's eyes and he was her heart.
retromom More than 1 year ago
I was not sure this was a book I would enjoy. I love cats and this cat sounded amazing but I still wasn't sold. Homer's story drew me in at once. How would poor Homer survive as a blind cat? A curious cat needs to see, right? Wrong! Homer has no problem getting into michief like other cats. Homer's antics really make this book worth reading. He is quite the character and is truly fearless. I can see why Gwen was so taken with him from the start. What Homer lacks in being able to see he makes up for with spunk. Together Gwen and Homer make a terrific team. Gwen is Homer's eyes but Homer teaches Gwen a thing about love and trust. It's a nice light read for cat lovers.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
loved it, loved it, loved it!!! anybody who likes cats, or pets in general, or has a soul should buy and read this book immediately. this is the greatest story about an animal that I've ever read, and the only pet book I've seen that has a happy ending. I'm still laughing and crying. buy this book now!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A mixture of wonder amazement and sadness that even kids can enjoy-Coleman Hayman 11
pindian More than 1 year ago
This was so good, but you have to be a cat lover to enjoy it...this cat was unbelievable....and such a sweet story....kept my interest, fast read....cat lovers you wont be able to put down....have passed it on to other cat lovers.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I cannot believe how amazing this cat is. Gwen Cooper has truly captured the essence of Homer and all that he is able to do. I feel inspired by their story and their journey together. I could not put this book down and I want everyone I know to read it. The writing is clear and crisp and wonderfully descriptive. I feel like I can "see" their world.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved this book! It was amazing how this cat was able to adapt to every situation. I can totally relate to so much of the author's trials being a 3 cat household myself. It can be tough and for her to take on the huge responsibility of caring for a blind cat was truely heartwarming. I recommend this book to all animal lovers.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I had a black cat named kiki, and so i really can connect with the authors love of cats. All three of her cats's personalities were uniquely portrayed in this novel. Cats have a special social order that's not that different from ours, minus the facebook and twitter networking. More people with special cats need to step up and write a book about their muse. I have several ordinary cats but because i love them they are special to me just like homer is to gwen. Id write a book but i am only 12. I would also recommend Huck and Dewey to all that loved Homer, i have cats and a poodle and a special miw doggie all whom i luv very much and if ur anything like me you will love these books!
Melt7 More than 1 year ago
I read this book in just a few days. As a true story, it is a real page turner. I have never read a first-hand account of someone who experienced 9/11. It really brought things home. I would recommend this book to everyone, even if they don't have a cat.
HobbesT More than 1 year ago
I loved this book! Being a cat lover, I am a little biased, but I really enjoyed it. Homer is a amazing, lovable cat. At times the parts about 9/11 were hard to read, very emotional. But what that cat could do (the flies)! Gwen is a wonderful writer and really keeps your interest.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is beautifully written! It is right up there with "Christian the Lion" and "The Cat who Came for Christmas". AN intelligent, compassionate story of a little blind kitty whom no one wanted until a special lady with a big heart consented to meet him. Gwen Cooper brings Homer into your living room and heart and I will not soon forget this story. You feel as if you are in the very room Homer is, when he goes after the intruder, this little pint size, black beauty! Homer is extraordinary - I daresay all kitties are! Read this book; you will enjoy it thoroughly!
Ruth-the-Reader More than 1 year ago
This was a most heart-warming story, without being maudlin, of a blind cat that made much of a life, affecting many others, despite obvious obstacles. It's the simple acts done by ordinary people (and animals), and the results of same, that help us remember what is important in life. This book confirms such an outlook and it's good reading from older children on up through elders (that's me!)
Nissana More than 1 year ago
A friend, who is a "born again catlover" sent me an article on this book. Something told me I had to buy it. Please note: this is not a literary review. I won't go into Ms. Cooper's writing style or anything like that. I do say this is a great read for any cat lover, not a tragedy but it could have been without Gwen Cooper being a sucker for a little cat who needed her. You will laugh out loud but you will also cry so have the tissues handy.
ChristysBookBlog More than 1 year ago
Homer's Odyssey by Gwen Cooper is a heart-breaking and hilarious look at the life of an eyeless cat. Cooper undertook the care of wee Homer when he was just a few weeks old and a life-threatening infection had already taken his eyes from him. But rather than become a fearful, cringing scaredy cat, Homer embraced every single moment of life as the blessing it is, teaching both Cooper and her friends important lessons. Cooper has a unique talent for capturing feline behavior with such perfection, every scene comes to life. This is one of those rare books that had me telling everyone around me about, and even reading scenes out loud that were absolutely too good not to share. Homer teaches Cooper to look at the people around her differently, and he changes her as well. I dare you to try and not fall in love with this bundle of energetic love. And God bless Cooper for not ending the book on the bittersweet note that so many of these pet memoirs do! It was a joy to read from the first to last page!
belindaisley More than 1 year ago
The world is full of people with good intentions, but author Gwen Cooper is the real deal. Homer, blind since he was two weeks old, luckily finds a forever home with Cooper, who takes him in, but it's Homer who takes Cooper's heart and teaches her what fearlessness really means. Homer, the kitten she saves, is 100% blind; Cooper's memoir is 100% pure inspiration. The story is funny, optimistic and heartbreaking. Yes, I cried several times, but mostly tears of joy -- knowing there are people in the world who despite potential hardship, step up and do the right thing.
books4gail More than 1 year ago
Not every cat is worthy of a book (sorry Louie & Jojo) but Homer's life story plus the author's life journey make this a captivating and sometimes thrilling read. I am a little wary of what could be a simplistic, overly sentimental read--this book is far more than that.