Monday, November 2, 2009

Homer's Odyssey: A Fearless Feline Gwen Cooper

Remember Dewey Readmore, last year's suddenly famous library cat? Librarian Vicki Myron hit the best seller lists with her feline tale, and even Hollywood paid attention. Meryl Streep will be playing Vicki in a movie based on the book.

This year cat lovers have another chance to experience both tears and laughter reading Homer's Odyssey: a Fearless Feline Tale, Or How I Learned About Love and Life with a Blind Wonder Cat by Gwen Cooper. I couldn't stop telling people about the book once I started it. The cat lost his eyes to an infection when he was only two weeks old, and his eyes were sewn shut. Along comes Gwen Cooper, already the owner of two cats, a twenty-something Miamian who can't even afford her own apartment after a romantic break-up. Yet she felt called to adopt this kitten, a plucky all-black furry ball of joy. She named him Homer. Soon she felt like Mary with her little lamb, for Homer followed Gwen wherever she would go.

Happy-go-lucky Homer knows no bounds, except for the prudent boundaries Gwen carefully arranges wherever they end up living. For instance, he is not allowed out on high rise patios. But Homer scales draperies, bookshelves, blue jeans and counters as easily as a born mountain climber. He unerringly finds his food, water and litter, etc. He is also something of a opera star, revealing a wide repertoire of trilling meows. He loves to both communicate and cuddle. He is cheerful and brave, never needy. He charms most everyone he meets, much like Dewey Readmore. And he serves in many roles: gamekeeper, rubber band guitarist and even security guard. One night Homer attacked and scared away an intruder in their apartment, waking Gwen up in the process before any harm was done.

Gwen Cooper reinvents herself as the chapters fly by. Her jobs in marketing and publicity come and go, until the dot com boom goes bust and she leaves Miami for Manhattan. Homer and his two step-sister cats, Scarlet and Vashti, handle the transition fairly well. Then comes 9/11. Gwen lives very near the World Trade Center district and following the terrorist attacks, days go by before she can get back to her apartment and the cats. Her first hand reports of life in the city at that time are vivid. Thank goodness her three cats and apartment were okay.

Gwen was single and looking. I don't want to give away all the book's outcomes, but suffice it to say that reading about her love life is part of the memoir's appeal. This is also an extended coming of age tale. Gwen becomes more confident and independent. Like young Homer, she takes blind leaps into the unknown and lives to tell the tale.

Another thing that really impressed me: how the author used relevant quotes from The Odyssey by Homer at the beginning of each chapter. I've had very little exposure or patience for ancient classics, but reading these quotes made me want to go back to the original Homer, the blind poet. What an uncanny, inspired name for this cat. Homer's perpetual journey continues, and we the readers are lucky to follow along.

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