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
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
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)