book review: lost cat by caroline paul (illustrated by wendy macnaughton)

I have lived with cats my entire life. There was a brief stint when Mr and I were living in a little house near the university when I did not have a cat, but on the weekends I would drive to my mom’s house and pick up Twiggy, my childhood feline love. He would spend the weekend with us, purring into my chin and glowering at Mr, his usurper. Lost Cat by Caroline Paul and Wendy MacNaughton is part feline love letter, part adventure story. The protagonist (and sometimes antagonist, really) of the tale is Tibia. Skittish and falsely brave he reminded me so much of my own Twiggy.

And so I sat in an empty arena parking lot and devoured the book. A pet is a family member. My cat Rosa (otherwise known as Boule) is your cranky aunt who surprises you at birthdays with the most thoughtful gifts and snuggles when you are sick. Our other cat Albert is the perfect family cat, selfless in the face of the suffocating love of children. Lost Cat is about what happens when you lose a vital part of your family. Caroline’s obsession with learning what Tibia did his weeks away is all too real for a cat person. A cat-sized camera? Yes, please.

Lost Cat is more than just a story of a lost cat returned. It is about what happens to us, as human beings, when our world is turned upside down through injury and how we lean on the people (and animals) we love the most in the ensuing recovery. Because recovery isn’t a quick rebound from down to “yep, I’m good, let’s go”, it’s also knitting yourself back together into a new person, stronger from injury. It is about vulnerability in love – how could Tibia disappear if Caroline loves him so much? How does Wendy, a non-cat person deal with Caroline’s obsession? Though the focus remains squarely on Tibia and learning where he went for the five weeks he was gone, we see the growth of Wendy and Caroline’s own relationship. At 6 months, their relationship was still so new to go through the heartbreak of a lost Tibby and Caroline’s accident.

Lost Cat is full of emotion – I definitely cried in that arena parking lot, just in time for a cyclist to ride by and peer cautiously into my car at me; it is also hilarious. Wendy MacNaughton’s are beautiful and quirky. Tibby, whom I felt I knew through Paul’s careful telling, came alive to me with each sketch. Paul’s writing is clever  and self-aware – Of course it’s a little nutty to attach notes and GPS to a cat’s collar, but it had to be done.

Lost Cat will be released April 2013 and you should head to your local bookstore to get one. Lost Cat is a fascinating and lovely read and it has the added bonus of confusing strangers with your tears and giggles if you read it in public.

Thanks to Netgalley for providing the opportunity for me to read Lost Cat.

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